Key Industries, a Saint John company teaching employment skills to intellectually disabled people, is expanding its services to reach people in locations distant from the city.

The company, located on Charlotte Street, has six employees teaching life skills throughout the province.

"It is going well," said Matthew Wallace, who oversees the Focus Forward program. "Everybody who attends the program is happy to be there."

The satellite classes are in Riverview-Albert, Grand Falls, Oromocto, Rothesay, east Saint John and Neguac, with six to 10 clients in each.

Changing lives

While other services in these areas are provided, Wallace said employment classes are harder to come by

For this reason, he said the program is changing lives.

A woman attending the class in Rothesay recently became employed at Tim Hortons, said Wallace, and showed off her paycheck when he visited.

"That's awesome," he said. "People are getting jobs."

He said the goal of the company has always been to spread its knowledge, which led to this push beyond the city limits.

While employment is a goal for many who take the classes, it's not for all.

Some clients are already employed, while others just apply the skills to their everyday lives.

In the classes, which began in August, clients might be taught skills like how to deal with rude customers, greet people or prioritize their workloads.

In each community the classes run five days a week, for 15 weeks, twice.  

More than employment

Randy Mallory, who just finished teaching the first 15 weeks of classes in east Saint John, said his class is the closest to the main Key Industries building, and he still sees what an impact it has had.

"I had one guy who didn't know what the colours were," he said. "He came in one day and was wearing a red sweater. He came in and said, 'Randy, Randy, look at my red sweater. It's red. It's red.'

"It's small moments like that."

Beyond the basic skills taught, Mallory said he's seen big improvements in the confidence levels.

"Many times they were told, 'You wouldn't be able to,'" he said. "But a lot of them do have the ability to."

Matt Wallace

Matthew Wallace oversees the training program, which he says has been successful. (Joseph Tunney/CBC)

The six employees work out of agencies and facilities already providing services for the intellectually disabled of a particular area.

Additionally, the program is partially run by the provincial government, said Christine Evans, president and CEO of the Key Industries.

According to Wallace, the plan is to move onto six other communities once done, once again, to reach people otherwise beyond reach.