Six British Columbians have been gaining valuable skills through a government-funded work experience project that uses dance to address social issues for at-risk students.
SQx Dance has been engaging students with barriers from throughout British Columbia in tasks and exercises that use dance to promote skills building. The organization addresses social issues by promoting teamwork, friendship and compassion through interactive dance instruction workshops. The work experience participants, from the Nelson area, have spent the past six months gaining marketable skills as they work with SQx Dance to expand the Interactive Dance Awareness program.
Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, sees programs like this as one of the ways of reducing poverty in British Columbia.
“This project has had incredible reach. Six people have benefited from employment and training, at-risk youth have gained skills that will serve them for years to come, and communities around British Columbia have been strengthened by the social innovation promoted through the program,” Simpson said.
Carmen Moreira, executive director of SQx Dance, said, “Since our work experience project is synchronized with our Interactive Dance Awareness Program, participants with barriers to employment collaborate with at-risk educational participants in a symbiotic learning environment. The participants and youth inspire each other through a mutually beneficial knowledge transfer, understanding and healing relationship.”
Moreira was honoured earlier this year when she received a BC Social Innovation Youth Award for the work she and the organization are doing. This award recognized the work that under-30 year-olds are doing to tackle social issues in innovative ways.
Judy Darcy, MLA for New Westminster and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, had the opportunity to see Moreira working with a group of students in New Westminster, including a sample program activity: the dance-off.
“Giving students the tools to help them navigate relationships and promote understanding is vital, particularly for youth at risk,” Darcy said. “As we continue to battle the most significant public health crisis in decades, finding new ways to boost mental health for youth couldn’t be more important. SQx Dance is providing the tools that youth need in a vibrant, engaging and fun way. It was a joy to watch them dance.”
As the work experience project nears completion, the participants are finding it is not only the students who have benefited — they too have become more motivated to succeed in their own lives. In doing so, they have become the role models that these children need.
“I am passionate about arts and culture, and have greatly enjoyed being a part of a company that brings this to communities that don't have a lot of opportunities to experience things like this. When you see the impact it makes, especially on particular individuals, you can't help but feel like you are doing meaningful work. Working for a company that promotes kinship and collaboration and holds it true within themselves as a group has been a gift,” said Shaenna Young, one of the project participants.
Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction provided $183,585 in funding through the Job Creation Partnerships stream of the Community and Employer Partnerships program, which funds projects that increase employability levels and share labour market information.
The Community and Employer Partnerships program provides support to people who are struggling to gain a foothold in the job market. It helps build stronger partnerships with industry and labour to connect British Columbians with classroom and on-the-job training, while making it easier for employers to hire the skilled workers they need.
To date, the program has helped almost 1,675 job seekers benefit from work experience and has funded close to 300 projects throughout the province.
Photo of the SQx Dance team: https://flic.kr/p/DePvzw
Learn more about SQx Dance Company, visit: https://sqxdance.org/
For more information on Community and Employer Partnerships: www.workbc.ca/CEP
Find a local WorkBC Employment Services Centre: www.workbccentres.ca
Learn more about the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction: www.gov.bc.ca/sdpr