Ranjit Saini’s last year of Humber College’s Bachelor of Child and Youth Care program was going well. She was about to graduate and had taken advantage of resources on campus.
“For five years of my college journey I relied on the library and IT rentals to complete my assignments,” she said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic Humber campuses have been closed, but classes have continued by transitioning to online learning.
Without the library, Saini was put in a precarious situation – both academically and financially, if she did not graduate.
Humber’s Community Outreach and Workforce Development (COWD) department stepped in.
Through a partnership with Renewed Computer Technology, a company that refurbishes laptops and desktops and resells them to community members in need, COWD found Saini a computer.
She soon received a laptop shipped to her, loaded with software.
It cost her $200.
“The partnership allows anybody in need to access technology, which we know is very important in developing the skills of the future,” said Nivedita Lane, COWD’s Manager of Community & Partnership Development.
“Without a computer, I do not know how I would have survived or if I would have been able to graduate from my program,” said Saini.
A desktop computer from Renewed Computer Technology costs just $110 through the partnership. According to Lane, supply well exceeds demand and COWD is ensuring that more people in need have access to this opportunity. Sixty-five computers have been purchased by Humber students through this partnership.
Finding a path through COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis is changing lives, but the COWD staff have continued to deliver its programs and services through remote delivery. They have remained steadfast to their mission by providing support and resources by telephone and internet.
“It’s important that we ensure that no one is left out, as we are well aware that not everyone has digital literacy skills and access to a computer and internet,” says Geraldine Babcock, Director of COWD.
Humber College Community Employment Services (HCCES) is one of COWD’s key services . The services of HCCES will help carry its clients through the changing employment landscape and the potential economic fallout of COVID-19
Those services are provided through five offices in Toronto, Etobicoke and Brampton.
"The attention paid to me as an individual was very valuable during this process,” said Thomas MacHardy, a recent Humber Community Employment Services client.
He was hired as adata analyst at Mindshare and is working from home throughout the crisis for about 40 hours a week.
“It's a permanent job that he found the job on LinkedIn after revising his resume and his LinkedIn profile,” said Gordana Kokorovic, Supervisor of the St. Clair West location.
Thomas was fortunate to gain employment when he did. Governments at all levels have decided to suspend operations of non-essential businesses. Some individuals may be able to access the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or employment insurance, but many are still looking for jobs.
In order to find opportunities for job seekers, COWD goes straight to the source – employers.
“We work collaboratively with employers to meet their hiring and training needs. “We are able to create tailored responses to find the right candidates to fill their openings,” said Babcock.
There are companies with increased demands due to the pandemic such as grocery stores, and those involved in the supply chain and manufacturing as a result of the increased need for personal protective equipment.
Tackling persistent problems
When COVID-19 hit, the city and the United Way of Greater Toronto identified local champions like Humber and created a coordinated regional response. The initiative, made up of 10 sub-regional clusters, is called the Community Coordination Plan.
“Humber’s knowledge of available resources, and ability to leverage those resources […] are key contributions to the work of the clusters,” said Sherry Phillips, Community Development Office at the City of Toronto.
She notes that Humber is considered a vital and valued partner in the CCP.
Familiar issues unrelated to COVID have come up in the in the coordination process and they require a similarly coordinated response.
"The wage gap, housing access and food insecurity are problems that won’t lessen once the pandemic is over,” said COWD’s Nivedita Lane.
"If we ignore the communities that aren’t doing well, we’re actually not setting ourselves up for success.”
Economic development coupled with social supports and development will help, she says.
But it will take a coordinated approach, like the CCP, to enact meaningful change.