Women Interested in Successful Employment:
Perspectives on a Bridging Program


We have different work experiences, but we all have things in common. We're all trying to get out there and to make the best of things, the best of our abilities.


WISE is about choices. You have a choice to further your education or to get out there and look for a job. They are not going to say at the end of the program, OK you are going to take this job and you are going to take that job. What we are seeing now is that there are a lot more things to choose from. (1)

The WISE program was initiated in November 1987 by CCLOW-Newfoundland in co-operation with the Association for Lifelong Learning (St. John's branch of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Adult Education). It is an innovative bridging program offering flexible learning, counselling, and self-development and was established to assist women who are seeking to enter or re-enter the work force and women who want or need to re-direct their career paths or develop skills of career decision-making. Since its inception, the program has received enthusiastic response from participants and from over 500 women in the community who have expressed interest in joining. This article profiles the program from several perspectives, presenting the voices of women who have been involved in different ways-as participants, staff, and volunteers.


WISE participants have different reasons for coming to the program but they share many experiences.

For several years, I worked in a cafeteria. I always wanted to go back to school, but my husband told me that I was too old to go back.

Now, here I am back at school. I'm forty and I'm just going to get older anyhow. I'm hoping to do office work which a lot of people don't want to do, but to me it will be a change from working in the cafeteria.


I took a lot of jobs in sales and catering, anything I could get. I got to the point where I just wanted to do something for me. I didn't want any more low-paying jobs. I didn't want any more seasonal jobs. Then I read about this course in the paper and I applied.


My husband died recently and suddenly I'm faced with the responsibilities of a home, a car and two children. I feel scared about all the things I have to take over. I thought, how in the world does a woman earn a man's wage? I had done office work. I had worked in a nursery school. I had worked selling real estate. But what do I have to offer an employer so that I can earn a wage that my family can live on? So that's why I'm here - to gain some confidence and to develop what areas I can.


I was working shifts as a hairdresser, long nights and weekends. And I just couldn't spend any time with my children. What finally smartened me up was one morning I dropped my seven-year old off at school and she said, “See you tomorrow Mommy."At ten minutes to nine in the morning, my daughter is saying “See you tomorrow Mommy.” Within a week I had given in my notice. I'm also a single parent so I wanted something that would help me support my kids without having to go for assistance.

Over and over again, participants express surprise at finding a program that is so flexible, that gives them the opportunity to explore different options and does not tie them to a particular job or trade before they know what their education and employment possibilities really are. Access to support services such as child care and transportation is also considered extremely important. Several participants have said that when they first heard about the program they could not believe it was true, it was so perfectly suited to their situation.

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