Launched by WoodGreen in 2004, Homeward Bound is an award-winning comprehensive 4-year program that helps homeless or inadequately housed single mothers achieve lasting economic self-sufficiency. The first of its kind in Canada, Homeward Bound provides single mothers access to transitional housing, post-secondary education, childcare, and sustainable employment.
The 4-year program includes a free 2-year college education in diploma programs such as Early Childhood Education, Computers and Information Technology (IT), Business, Law Office Administration, Construction Engineering Technician and Retail Management. Once completed, graduates participate in a 14-week professional internship with one of Homeward Bound’s Industry Partners to gain work experience. After graduating from Homeward Bound, 88% of participants become employed and earn an average salary of $43,000 per year.
Pauline Hockenstein, Director of Homeward Bound and Neighbourhood Programs, noticed that many of the students who chose to study IT were finding the program difficult, which led to many students dropping out or requesting to switch programs altogether.
“IT is less about coding and more about problem-solving,” explained Pauline. “We want to help our women learn from their mistakes and learn to see these mistakes as steps toward success, rather than as an indicator of a bad fit for the program.”
This inspired the idea of a program assessment tool, one that would ensure applicants have a better understanding of the skills and interests best suited for each program. With a vision in mind, Pauline reached out to The Prosperity Project’s Matching Initiative to help her bring her idea to life.
After evaluating the requirements of the project, The Prosperity Project matched Pauline with a group of volunteers from EY Ripples. The first volunteer group began by identifying the program’s specific needs and creating a root cause analysis to develop the tool. The second group used this data to work with an independent computer programmer and design the program assessment tool.
The assessment tool has now been completed by the EY Ripples team and launched at Homeward Bound in the fall of 2021. This tool is helping provide better insights about the applicants, including their skills and interests, and allowing for program coordinators to match candidates to their optimal diploma program.
Pauline and her team were “blown away” by their experience with the Matching Initiative and the quality of work accomplished by the EY Ripples volunteers. The thorough analysis of the barriers to IT program enrolment and completion, along with the in-depth recommendations provided by EY Ripples, have been extremely insightful and beneficial for the program’s planning of needed supports for students’ success. The professionalism and genuine interest in this project demonstrated by the volunteers involved was exceptional and inspiring.
“Like all partnerships, the success depends on the fit, whether you match with one another,” said Pauline. “For us, this was a match made in heaven.”