Josephine Mark

It has taken over 20 years, but Josephine Mark is close to achieving a childhood dream, thanks to the Single Parent Employment Initiative (SPEI).

As a teen, Josephine had a vision of making furniture incorporating traditional First Nation designs as a way of celebrating her culture. As a single mother to five children, however, Josephine was always struggling just to get by and didn’t give her vision further thought.

It was while she was on income assistance that she heard about the joinery/cabinetmaking foundation program at North Island College and knew that the time was right and that was what she was meant to be doing. It was the perfect training to get her started on the path to achieving her dream.

Through her local WorkBC Employment Services Centre, INEO Employment Services, Josephine connected with the SPEI program, which covered the cost of her tuition and supplies for the program.

“I would not have been able to go back to school without the program. I couldn’t without a steady income,” Josephine said.

Now, she is halfway through her program and loving the challenge.

“I’m learning a lot – mostly from my mistakes!” she admitted with a laugh. “But finding better ways to do something is a positive for me.”

Since starting the course, she has learned how to use a number of woodworking tools including sliding panel saw, mitre saw, planer, jointer and shaper, complementing her existing knowledge of tools which include table saw, jigsaw, grinder and sander.

Her adult children have been positively affected by her joy of learning and return to school. Her youngest daughter, 18, is also currently attending college, and she and Josephine have been supporting each other through the challenges of school.

Along with the challenges, though, Josephine appreciates the opportunities that are ahead of her once she graduates in June, as well as the possibility of a career that combines so much of what she loves – creating art, working with her hands, and honouring her culture.

Her advice for her children now reflects that renewed sense of hope and possibility: “Whatever your goal is, whatever your dream is, never give up. Look at your mom, it can happen.”

While it didn’t happen overnight, Josephine is now seeing her vision into reality, and hopes other single parents who dream of a better life will be able to achieve it through SPEI.

The Single Parent Employment Initiative provides eligible single parents on income or disability assistance with supports including up to 12 months of funded training for in-demand jobs or paid work experience placement, transit costs to and from school and child-care costs during their training or work placement and in the first year of employment. Single parents can also remain on income assistance while attending a training program. Since its launch in September 2015, almost 4,500 single parents have become involved in SPEI and over 880 have already found employment.