His career path may have veered drastically from where he started, but after 30 years in Hope, Peter Bailey says it felt exciting to be recognized by his peers at a provincial level for the grassroots work he does on a daily basis.
The founding co-partner of Free Rein Associates has yet again been awarded the David Hutson Leadership Award by the Association of Service Providers for Employability and Career Training (ASPECT) at its annual conference in Victoria, which was given to him by B.C. Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin.
“I once was the newspaper reporter for the Hope Standard,” explained Bailey. “During (my time at the paper), my goal was to work towards an editorship. I put down roots, settled long-term, then everything changed.”
Stepping away from journalism and into the business of employment counselling, Bailey says he experienced an unexpected revelation: he’d much rather do the job he was doing than anything he was doing in the media. It was then that Free Rein Associates was born.
“We’ve been in Hope since 1993,” said Bailey, “and in that time, we’ve seen literally thousands of people and assisted them with re-employment.”
A privately-owned company, Free Rein Associates is a community development agency that, through contracts with both the provincial and federal governments, serves local “clients from every background and circumstance and assists them (with obtaining) employment.
“We are seeing large numbers of people who describe anxiety as their number one issue (in obtaining employment). As a result, we focus on activities that address anxiety and depression,” continued Bailey. “These activities have really impacted the anxiety faced by our clients.
“It’s wonderful to see our clients working in the community,” he said. “So often they want to stop and tell us their stories … they are proud of their accomplishments and they want to share that with us.
But “I’m determined to see services in Hope and other small rural communities in this province be delivered to the same standard as the urban centres,” said Bailey, who says he tailors his approach to each client’s needs.
“I don’t use a strategy, I use a multitude of strategies,” he said. “It’s really dependant on what’s going on for the employment seeker. The biggest amount of work is as a facilitator of workshops on self-esteem, job search, goal setting.
“I think I probably (use) what you might call a holistic approach: we surround the client with services that are going to meet their needs.”
Being a career counsellor, says Bailey, is “the career I was supposed to have. Everything I’ve ever done (has) lead me to becoming an employment councillor. It’s a very satisfying position.”
However, Bailey credits his business partner Christine Proulx, and Karen Scalise, Free Rein’s executive director, for the company’s success over the years: “(They) have worked with me and the rest of the team for the past 25 years to make Free Rein the exceptional agency it is today.”
Named after the late David Hutson, creator of the BC SED Association, which became ASPECT, the award honours Hutson’s commitment to community, and recognizes leadership in the community-based training sector.
“There’s a real pleasure you take in being recognized by your peers … but when a 17-year-old youth with serious issues acquires employment and maintains it, that’s my drug, that’s what really excites me,” said Bailey. “But receiving the award was very nice, and I was very touched.”
For more information on Peter Bailey and Free Rein Associates, please visit their website at FreeReinAssociates.ca.