The ACES (Acquiring Community-based Employment Skills) program is a province-wide John Howard Society employment program that provides employability and life skills workshops, safety certificate and skills enhancement training, and supported work experiences to individuals facing multiple barriers to employment.

Over 180 people engaged with the ACES program across BC in its first year of delivery, and in the Lower Mainland we had 36 participants who were supported to achieve their short- and long-term employment goals.

ACES participants accessed skill and qualification-enhancing certificate courses, created resumes and cover letters targeted to their employment goals, and received practical supports like work clothes, boots, and tools that are integral to job readiness. Participants benefitted with the ongoing support and advocacy provided by ACES staff, and gained the skills and confidence necessary for success in long term employment. Of the ACES participants across BC this year, 77 people achieved their expected employment outcomes. Miles is a key example of how an ACES participant has done just that.

“My name is Miles and I have been receiving assistance from the John Howard Society of the Lower Mainland since mid 2018 and I have gained a lot, in terms of employment skills and certification through the ACES program. I have completed my level 3 first aid with the assistance of JHS. Through ACES, I was able to enroll in the care institute for the certification required to take the next step towards my goal of becoming a construction safety officer. As of March 2019, I became a site safety adviser for a large reputable company here in Vancouver.

I appreciate all that JHS has supported me with throughout my endeavours. The resources they provide are there for people with all sorts of different challenges.

Thanks to Mandy, Ryan and all the staff of JHS.”

Miles, ACES program participant

Miles was one of the first people referred to the ACES program in the Lower Mainland. Residing at one of our CBRFs at the time, Miles was looking to find a way back to his construction career after serving a sentence at a federal correctional facility, for a crime related to his problematic substance use. A JHS residence worker encouraged Miles to connect with our ACES program to gain employment training and supports that would assist him in achieving his goals.

Miles was engaged in the program, and focusing on his physical and mental health, and actively building a network of pro-social supports when he breached his bail conditions on a minor charge and was sentenced to a further month in custody. During this month, and throughout the substance use treatment program that he attended following this release, Miles maintained contact with our ACES outreach worker, who advocated for him to the judge in his case, and who committed to continuing to work with him following his treatment. Miles was granted release, and as a person who identifies with Indigenous heritage, secured culturally appropriate substance use treatment. Miles was able to maintain his sobriety and returned to the ACES program. Following his graduation from ACES – just six months after committing to a plan on how to attain his goal of becoming a construction safety officer – Miles completed his training and gained work one month later.

Through expanded funding, we now have the opportunity to support more demographics to access the ACES program, including youth ages 18 and over. We look forward to ongoing opportunities to provide the supports, training, and resources necessary for people facing barriers to employment to find and maintain meaningful careers.


Grassroots is a job readiness program that supports individuals with disabilities to obtain meaningful employment through customized employment support and life-skills development. The program aims to build confidence, challenge attitudes, and support individuals transitioning into the workforce via one-to-one learning sessions, job coaching, workplace support, and mediation. Participants take part in individualized job readiness and life-skills learning sessions designed to increase resiliency and success in the workplace. Upon completion of the program, participants have access to additional one-to-one employment support and job coaching, continued learning and training, and support with locating and securing employment and volunteer opportunities.

This year, 34 people participated in Grassroots, and over 50% of participants secured part-time or full-time positions following their graduation from the program. This is the highest rate of employment obtained since the start of the program.

A key reason for this increase is that more participants who had already participated in the program in the past, re-participated in Grassroots this year with new employment goals to achieve. In past years, Grassroots delivered group workshops, and many participants enrolled in the program with the goal of increasing their experience in group settings and learning new skills, rather than specifically seeking employment. Now that the program is delivered one-on-one, we saw participants return to the program with employment-specific goals.

Meet David, a Grassroots participant

Through his participation in Grassroots, David was able to find and secure employment at a popular restaurant in the Lower Mainland in January 2017. With ongoing support from JHS outreach services, David has been able to maintain this employment. He consistently works full-time hours and has demonstrated a strong work ethic and the desire to perfect his skills.

With hard work and determination, David has moved up in the company from cleaning the restaurant lobby to cooking fries and has since set new goals of becoming a team leader and training new staff. Not only has David developed as a professional, he has also made many friends at his place of employment.

David continues to be supported by a JHS outreach worker, who is assisting him with life-skills and supporting him as he navigates friendships and working relationships with his colleagues so that he can achieve his personal and professional goals.

Employment Preparation Program

Our Employment Preparation Program (EPP) is a two-day job readiness workshop delivered at Fraser Regional Provincial Correctional Center. The goal of EPP is to assist individuals as they prepare for release by providing employment skills training and encouraging pro-social community engagement.

In addition to employment skills training such as resume building, interview preparation, and job search, EPP also includes information on pre-release resources including obtaining identification, housing, and taxes; all of which are important factors in securing and maintaining employment.

Most EPP participants identify an interest in working in the construction industry and report that once released, they are able to leverage the skills and supports received through EPP to secure employment upon reintegrating into the community.

This year, EPP had 53 participants which was accompanied by a 68% completion rate.

Participants interested in further employment training upon their release are provided opportunities to participate in our ACES and Grassroots employment programs when eligible, which can provide specialized employment training and ongoing employment supports.