“NYWC’s program gave me a sense of belonging and community”

NYWC in Toronto offers a free program to help women prepare for employment via workshops, resources and building work skills.

Did you know that unemployment is rising in Toronto and that 1 in 10 Torontonians now rely on a food bank? Women and newcomers are often particularly hard hit due to childcare and language issues, among other factors. That’s why North York Women’s Centre created the STEPS TO WORK program to help women explore their work options, overcome barriers and connect to training, education or employment programs.

Supporting Toronto Women

The STEPS To Work program first launched in 2019 and ran most recently in April 2024. It has been incredibly successful and has had lasting impacts on its participants. Guita Movallali, a former participant, is one of the program’s many success stories.

Guita was an isolated newcomer to Canada who struggled to find community during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, Guita was unaware of how to find employment opportunities and needed resources to help fill gaps in her skill set. STEPS To Work helped her gain new skills while also allowing her to build a community and make connections with other women. 

“The STEPS to Work program introduced me to organizations that offer valuable services, provided me with a sense of community and boosted my confidence,” says Guita. “It also showed me that I was not alone and that others were in similar situations.”

Addressing Barriers To Employment

STEPS To Work is an acronym for Set goals, Take action, Empower yourself, Prep your skills and Set up supports. It is a program that helps address the needs of women facing barriers to sustainable employment. Amongst its many features, the program informs participants about different employment, training, education and other service providers in the community and supports that they can access from them. This helps reduce overwhelm for participants by bringing service providers directly to them. Visit our STEPS To Work program page to see a list of our partners

Raising Necessary Funds

Organizing and hosting this NYWC program requires significant resources, funds, and donations to help offset even a small portion of costs. For example, NYWC was one of five organizations to receive a donation of $13,260 (CDN) through the World Education Services (WES), MIRIAM ASSEFA FUND. The Centre was able to use this donation to further strengthen and enhance the sustainability of the STEPS to Work program. We are now aiming to raise $100,000 to ensure that a full-time staff member can deliver optimal, recurrent programs. (You can help!)

“Grants and donations are the foundation of many community centres like NYWC, because they allow us to provide free programs to those who need it the most,” says NYWC Executive Director Iris Fabbro. “Without these donations, the Centre and all of its deliverables would simply not exist”

Building Work Skills & Connections

The STEPS To Work program includes one-to-one coaching sessions, where staff members offer a guided exploration of work options to participants, connect them to a training, education, or employment program that matches their individual goals, and work with them to manage any personal barriers they face. It also includes an 8-part workshop series. The workshops typically offer information on employment law and rights at work, the impact of gender bias on women in the workforce, workplace discrimination, harassment, and gender-based violence. Additionally, some workshops focus on developing soft skills that support job readiness and sustainable employment, including goal setting, action planning, decision making, adaptability, motivation, teamwork, conflict management and time management. Future enhancements to the program include matching participants with volunteer mentors.

“Navigating the workforce today can be especially challenging if you’re a newcomer or if you’ve been out of work for a while,” says Emily Charman, Program Coordinator at NYWC. “This program helps participants understand the current work landscape, discover resources and connect with other women.” 

In the end, the program helped participants create a long-term outlook for themselves rather than focusing only on immediate goals. Those who participated in STEPS to Work left with knowledge on how to plan towards what they want to do in the future, based on their capacity and readiness, as well as ways to progressively work on their goals. 

“Through the STEPS to Work program, I acquired strategies to address skill gaps,” says Guita. “The program facilitators were also welcoming, kind and supportive. Talking with them was always calming and helpful.”

Curious about NYWC? Learn about our programs, read about our organization, bookmark our volunteering page and connect with us

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