“Nothing ventured, nothing gained”. When you apply that sort of approach to the vocational assessment and training program Ventures, it certainly fits the bill.
Ventures is part of Prairie Mountain Health (PMH), Mental Health Services, Psychosocial Rehabilitation (PSR) Program. It provides supervised work skills assessment and training, primarily to individuals with enduring mental illness. Its primary mission, is to help individuals experience wellness and recovery as well as transition into feeling comfortable in community settings.
Ventures itself is located in a separate building near Brandon Regional Health Centre. The site is equipped with numerous works stations that utilize industrial equipment and adhere to modern workplace practices as well as provincial workplace health and safety standards. In most ways, the site emulates a real work setting and clients perform job tasks that are very much similar to competitive employment in the community.
“We are open Monday to Friday and normally serving about 25 clients per day participating in various numbers of shifts per week,” stated Ken Shepherd, Ventures Supervisor. “Due to COVID, we’ve scaled the number of people back to manage physical distancing strategies but overall, we remain very busy here.”
Shepherd says their team is involved in lots of interesting projects, but primarily they’ve developed expertise with internal/external signage, printing, laminating, and dye-cutting pieces.
About 70 per cent of Ventures business comes from internal PMH departments, which are always given top priority. The remainder comes from a variety of individuals and businesses, primarily in the Westman region.
“We may be contracted with a business to complete an entire product, or a portion of the product, which is then shipped to another business for completion or assembling. In this way, the Ventures program operates very much like a competitive business, participating in the real fabrication and manufacturing sector and working with manufacturers to obtain contracts and produce quality products that meet normal manufacturing and retail standards,” Shepherd added.
“But, we are not a production line. Our focus is always on our clients, with people-powered care and participation and inclusion. Safety and quality of training are always top of mind in what we do.”
Shepherd says a big positive is that program participants can gain other employment opportunities after improving their work skills. Clients have gone on to earn employment within Assiniboine Community College and Purolator Courier to name a few.
Speaking of COVID, Shepherd says around mid-March things started to get very busy and head in a little different direction as a result of the pandemic. They started producing vast quantities of plexi-barriers for reception areas, food areas or certain desk configurations within PMH.
“We also hit the ground running on producing plastic boxes that replaced cardboard ones for transporting lab samples back and forth from certain centres. We sent these to Shared Health for their use because of the stringent need to meet Infection/Prevention and Control standards. In fact, we received enquires from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (Regina/Qu’Appelle) and we produced some for them. Our team is very proud of how we were able to respond safely and quickly during a time of need”.
Shepherd says staff are very happy to be involved with the Ventures initiative.
“We have a great program and great team. We start every day with our clients like they are a new person just joining the program. Lots of ‘one on one’ discussion, making sure they are doing okay, ensuring they understand and review the projects they are working on. Safety first and then getting to work. The kudos we might get at the end of the day for a project well-done just helps to top everything off.”
Woodworking area inside Ventures shop.
Inside the Ventures shop, working on signs.