Ballad Group

Women Inspiring Women.

Meet Karis Goodswimmer. Karis is a member of Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation and currently lives in Edmonton with her five-year-old daughter, Isabella. Karis is also a recent graduate of the Ballad Foundations in Hospitality Training Program for Indigenous Youth. Karis credits the many women role models in her life and throughout the program in helping her reach her goals. Karis Goodswimmer’s daughter, Isabella. Before joining the program, Karis worked as a shop hand in a metal shop and had dreams of being a millwright. Like many Albertans, she was devasted when she was laid off as a result of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020. Karis was motivated to apply her skills and interests in a new field of work to support her daughter, but she wasn’t sure where to start. In the summer of 2020, her mom and biggest supporter tagged her in a Facebook post promoting the new Ballad hospitality training program. “I didn’t think that I would need it but I called and inquired anyways. Cathy answered and to my surprise, she wanted to have an interview with me. At the time, I had been at home for two months, doing nothing and feeling depressed… So, I decided to attend the interview. I had nothing better to do. I didn’t know what to expect.” Karis was invited for an interview with Cathy Gagne, an Employment Specialist at Ballad. “I was greeted by the happy and bubbly person, that I know as Cathy. Throughout my interview, I wanted to be professional and friendly but then my interest was sparked. It reminded me of my dreams of becoming a General Manager.” Karis was accepted to the program and was joined by a group of Indigenous youth seeking a career in the hospitality industry. The first day of the program started with a grounding ceremony, and knowledge sharing led by Dr. Patricia Makokis.   “The first week was so interesting, meeting Dr. Makokis and her husband, Eugene, it made me so overwhelmed with pride that I was proud to be Indigenous and made me want to be more in touch with my heritage. I went home and cried because I found a piece of me that was missing.” Karis talked about the inspiring women in the program and in her life that encouraged her to pursue further training and to reach her career goals. Most notably, Karis has three women in her life that inspire her and that she looks up to: her mother, Haley Wickenheiser, and Cathy Gagne. Karis Goodswimmer. “My first role model is my mother. She is the strongest most resilient person I have ever met.  The second is Haley Wickenheiser. She’s a hockey player, Olympian, and a doctor. She is really everything I want to be; there’s nothing she can’t do.  And finally my mentor Cathy at Ballad. She has really changed my life. When I first met her she was this ball of sunshine, and she radiates positivity. She inspired me to be so much more than I thought.” After graduation, Karis decided to apply her new employment and essential skills in a rewarding job with Alberta Health Services. Karis continues to be inspired by the women health practitioners she works with. She’s even considering going back to school to pursue a career in medicine.  “COVID-19 made me learn about myself, in a way that I wouldn’t have before. I believe that everyone has a life path, I am now on mine.” COVID-19 has impacted women disproportionally to men. As the sole caregiver for her daughter, Karis is determined to keep making choices so that she can be a role model and inspiration for her daughter. “I feel like being a woman, and an Indigenous woman, in a man’s world is a big challenge. Yes, it’s hard but it won’t stop me from achieving my goals. My life is different now, I feel like I can do anything and all because of this program.” The Foundations in Hospitality Program for Indigenous Youth is funded by the Government of Canada’s Youth and Employment Skills Strategy. Photos by Ray Watkins. 

Essential Skills to Success: A Participant’s Experience

We chatted with recent Essentials Skills to Success Training participant to learn more about her experience in the program. Tell me about yourself.  I am a 20-year-old woman, who had very limited education and struggled with addictions and mental health concerns also. How did you hear about Ballad Training?  I knew several people that had been in the program who told me that it would be a great opportunity for me to gain skills that would help me achieve my goals. Why did you join the program? Because I was ready to start expanding on my experience and wanted to have a support system that could assist me in achieving the things that I really wanted to do but was unsure of how to get there. “I LEARNED HOW TO TAKE RISKS AND TRUST MY STRENGTHS AND BE CONFIDENT IN MY ABILITY TO LEARN NEW THINGS.” Tell me about your training experience? It was fun and informative, I got to learn a lot of things about my skills and talents that I would not normally get in a traditional workplace. I learned how to become more assertive and self-confident in my abilities. I learned how to take risks and trust my strengths and be confident in my ability to learn new things. What did you gain from the training program?  I was able to take my GED and successfully pass it while in the program which was a huge barrier to me. I got to take driver’s training which gave me the skills to pass my Class 5 GDL, I got the opportunity to reach my financial goals that I needed to so that I could also do the GED program while maintaining attendance. I was able to secure employment through connections that I made in the program. I was able to be proactive with my mental health and encouraged to obtain counseling and all other supports. What were some of the challenges? Being pushed to break out of my comfort zone and to work and share in a group setting. Being pushed to realize my potential and not letting fear win. “I LEARNED HOW TO BECOME MORE ASSERTIVE AND SELF-CONFIDENT IN MY ABILITIES.”

Celebrating Indigenous History Month Virtually

June is National Indigenous History Month. It’s a time for all Canadians to unlearn what many of us have been taught and learn the diverse history and contributions of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. At Ballad our Indigenous Awareness Advisor, Dr. Patricia Makokis, reminds us that education is a lifelong journey and is critical for the work that we do with our Indigenous partners. To do this, we continually strive to learn from and work with Indigenous partners through awareness, dialogue, and reflection, grounded in the spirit and intent of reconciliation. This year, to celebrate Indigenous History Month virtually we recommend the following resources: 1. Watch: This June Dr. Patricia Makokis launched her second film, Treaty Walk: A Journey for Common Ground. Her series of films are used as teaching tools to build understanding, allyship and bridges for better relationships among Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples. 2. Read: Spend some time reading 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph. The book provides readers with an overview of the restrictions and impacts imposed on First Nations due to the Indian Act. When you’re done that, pick up one of these books by Canadian Indigenous authors. 3. Listen: Have a laugh and listen to some Indigenous stand-up, sketches, and conversations about Indigenous approaches to comedy on CBC’S Unreserved. 4. Enroll: If you’re interested in pursuing guided learning enroll in Indigenous Canada which is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) through the University of Alberta. This free 12-week course focuses on Indigenous histories and contemporary issues that affect Indigenous Peoples in Canada. 5. Attend: Join in the online celebrations on June 21st for Indigenous Peoples Day hosted by Aboriginal Awareness Week Calgary. This year’s theme is “KEEPING THE CIRCLE STRONG through Mother Earth’s Future Generations.” 6. Identify: Review a map of where you live and work, and identify the traditional territory of the First Nation, Inuit and/or Métis Peoples in your area. Learn the names of the Indigenous groups, and any affiliated treaties. You can find some of this information on Native Land or the First Nations Profiles Interactive Map. 7. Reflect: Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. Select one that is aligned with the work that you do, and commit to ways that you can further this call to action. 8. Share: Share what you’ve learned and these resources with your friends, family, and co-workers. Start conversations around the dinner table about Indigenous history, culture, and contributions. Keep learning and sharing long-after the month of June! As Dr. Makokis says: we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. So take the time this month to listen to, and read the many Indigenous voices across Canada. Happy Indigenous History Month to all our First Nations, Métis and Inuit partners, and friends!

Five Ways Ballad is Staying Connected & Engaged

At Ballad we’re used to collaborating with our colleagues in remote locations to deliver a project or prepare a proposal. However, like most businesses our entire team shifted to working remotely due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and the physical distancing guidelines. In doing so, we quickly realized that we were not leveraging our internal tools to their full capacity, and there was an opportunity to better engage remote team members. At first, our Slack conversations picked up, and Zoom video conferencing replaced phone calls. Then our team quickly started new initiatives to help keep our team members connected and engaged such as: Zoom Hang-Outs: Pre-COVID-19, periodically on Fridays the Edmonton corporate office would host happy hour drinks to celebrate successes and start the weekend. Physical distancing quickly put an end to those catch-ups. In their place, we’ve had Zoom hangouts with trivia games, drawing competitions and drinks. One of the perks with gathering online is that team members in every location can now participate.  Coffee Chats: Over the last few weeks and months there has been a lot of changes in all aspects of our team members’ lives, with new information constantly impacting the way we work and live. To better understand how our team was coping with these changes, our HR Coordinator initiated a series of coffee chats to check in and engage every employee. It was an opportunity to learn about the experiences of each team member which better informed the management team as we continue to operate in this new reality. Active April: To keep us moving and to help prevent the COVID-‘15’ from setting in, we launched Active April. This was started by our Operations Manager and excel wizard – who made an elaborate point system that kept us accountable whether we were biking, doing stairs, yoga, or dance-dance revolution. The winner (notably our most senior participant) received a $100 gift card and a $100 donation in their name to a charity of their choice. Book Club: An idea that sat on the shelf for several months was finally initiated.  The book club was started to promote shared learning, morale, and encourage just a little less screen time. With a lot of interest and suggested books, we developed a quick employee survey to select the first read, landing on The Originals written by Adam Grant. Mental Health Check-ins. Previously at the beginning of meetings we’ve always done regular check-ins that resembled: what are your weekend plans or how is your week going? But now, our small talk has shifted to real conversations and concerns. It’s pretty normal to ask how is everyone’s mental health or how is everyone REALLY doing? And to not get the “good” or “busy” standard answer. Overall, our team members are more connected. We’ve seen inside coworkers homes, heard how their plans and lives have changed, and we’ve rallied together to shift and adapt. Now, as we enter these next phases of reopening Alberta, it’ll be interesting to see which of these initiatives will continue to bring our team together.

We’re Ready, Together.

Written by Allison Smith It has been strange launching a new website and blog during this uncertain and unprecedented time; especially knowing that the work we do as a business might look very different in a few months or years’ time. That the needs of our clients or the services we provide could be different altogether. Though, that’s the business we’re in as training partners and consultants – listening, adapting and transforming.  A few years ago, we looked different too. A smaller team primarily providing essential skills and training programs, operating from the Midtown Mall in Whitecourt and home offices in Edmonton. Our team collaborated remotely. We travelled to our clients, listened to their unique stories and worked with them to utilize their strengths to solve their challenges. By doing this time and time again, we built trust and relationships. And we’re still doing this today. Now our team is bigger with offices located across the province, and our relationships are a lot stronger.  We bring together a group of entrepreneurs, thinkers, doers, innovators and strategists to serve clients across Western Canada. Still grounded in the art of listening, for the past 8 years we’ve worked alongside First Nation communities, Metis Settlements, Provincial and Federal governments, under and unemployed Albertans, and aspiring entrepreneurs. We’ve worked with them through uncertain times. We’ve worked with them through complexity, and adversity. And we’ve learned how to empower our clients to build capacity, achieve their vision and solve their challenges.  As we press publish on this website, the world continues to evolve and plan for the future of our economic, social and environmental systems. We’re ready to listen. We’re ready to adapt. And we’re ready to transform together.