Public art helping residents build job skills

A new piece of public art has been completed at the Strathmore Municipal Library, welcoming patrons to the facility – literally.

The mural was established through a joint venture between the Town of Strathmore and Prospect Human Services, as part of the Skills for Success program.

Skills for Success, which is funded by the Government of Alberta, is designed to help unemployed and underemployed Albertans in the greater Strathmore area improve foundational and digital literacy skills, as well as to learn essential communication skills.

Louise Gallagher, director of communications for Prospect Human Services, said those who participated in creating the mural are a part of the pilot Skills for Success program.

“It is a job readiness program, which moves people who are facing barriers closer to the workforce and it teaches them essential skills, such as improved literacy, digital literacy, numeracy,” said Gallagher. “The mural itself is all about working collaboratively, to problem-solve, to increase communication capacity and their ability to adapt to changes and other people’s points of view, and to be innovative.”

According to Gallagher, the five people involved in the mural worked with a program leader to decide what they wanted to create and were given the blank library wall to work with.

The result became a tree, saturated with “welcome” messages in a host of different languages for visitors coming into the library.

The five-week Skills for Success program was launched in early September, consisting of two weeks for classroom-based learning to teach foundational skills before the participants began the mural.

Gallagher added the hope, following the completion of the mural and the program for this cohort, is to work with them to improve their resumes, teach them how to do job searches and connect them with the workforce in some way.

“A job is the foundation of how we build lives, how we build our future, and there are individuals who have experienced long term unemployment or who face barriers such as mental health or a disability of some sort,” said Gallagher. “They can benefit from this skill training through using the arts to activate both their creative process and their innovative problem solving. Ultimately it builds confidence and it builds a sense that these participants can do more than they thought they could.”

Skills for Success is a two-year project taking place in Strathmore which will be actively engaging with local businesses to find opportunities for more community-based art projects.

Six cohorts per year will each be participating in a unique project throughout the community.

Another group has already begun working on a different project, this time for a new location of a pizza parlour in Strathmore.

More information about Skills for Success is available through the Prospect Human Services website (www.prospectnow.ca).

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times