By Tina Comeau
Both sides involved in a project that saw 28 people gain valuable work experience over a four-month period are calling the venture a success.
Canadian Tire in Yarmouth has been undergoing renovations over the past few months. The company has spent over a half million dollars on the renovations.
While the business used its own employees to carry out the project, it also brought in 28 workers from the West Nova Inclusive Employment Society, which is a community-based organization that provides specialized employment services for persons with disabilities. According to its mandate the society strives to assist persons with disabilities prepare for, obtain, and keep employment or self-employment.
Three sources of funding allowed this employment project to move forward. They included the Opportunities Fund through Service Canada, the Works for You Fund through Employment Nova Scotia, and ‘Skills Work!’ through the Department of Community Service.
Canadian Tire on Starrs Road carried out its renovation project with the society in two phases. The first phase saw two teams of workers starting on July 2. The remaining team began on Aug. 1 and continues until Nov. 2. Although not all of the clients from the West Nova Inclusive Employment Society will continue to work at Canadian Tire when the project ends, a few are being hired on to continue employment here. Others will seek employment in the workforce, armed with new skills that came about as a result of this project.
“As an agency that provides services for people who have disabilities, it was a golden opportunity for our clients,” says Karla LeBlanc. “It gave people an opportunity to get out and get some experience and acquire those necessary employment skills. Or maybe they hadn’t been in the workplace for a really long time and they needed a refresher and wanted to upgrade their skills.”
LeBlanc says these people can now use these skills as they look to acquire other employment.
“To be able to have the opportunity to put this on your résumé is a big wow factor,” she says. “This project was a huge success.”
The West Nova Inclusive Employment Society has been in existence since the late 1990s and says this recent project was also good in raising its community profile. The society has offices in Yarmouth, Clare and Barrington.
According to its website, the society serves persons with disabilities – these disabilities can include a long-term or recurring physical, mental, sensory, psychiatric or learning impairment.
Yarmouth Canadian Tire owner Mike Mercier says he was glad that funding was available to allow the business to offer this opportunity to the workers.
“The renovation project took a total of about 40 people, which includes my employees, working on the project. Then we still had the regular staff to serve the customers. It was great.”
Mercier says while the business can’t, unfortunately, hire all of the workers from the society on a permanent basis now that the project is drawing to a close, he’s happy that the project has given them great work experience.
“Some will get the opportunity to go to other retailers with the knowledge that they’ve learned from here,” says Mercier. “The project made that possible so we’re really excited and we were investing in the community.”
The renovation project at Canadian Tire has involved a realignment of how and where the merchandise is presented in the store, along with other visual improvements to the premises. Mercier says the renovations expand on other efforts that the store has undertaken to address community needs. More than a year ago the store introduced a hunting section and more recently it got into the business of selling materials for the commercial fishing industry.