Owner Dean Beers (left), with staff Jessica Wiles (centre), and Wes Bennett (right).
Many youth hunting for a job find themselves in a vicious circle: An employer wants to hire someone with experience, but many are wary of providing a youth with that valuable experience. “We have heard this message loud and clear from our local youth,” said Carol Benedetti, Community Development Coordinator at Orillia’s CDC. “They are educated, skilled and job-ready but they just can’t get a foot in the door.”
That’s why the CDC is excited about the return of the popular Pathways to Employment program which is aimed at connecting youth aged 15-30 to local employers. The program provides a wage subsidy of up to 75% of the employee’s wages for 26 weeks for employment that is expected to continue after the subsidy period ends.
“Employers naturally look for the most experienced applicants when they are looking to fill a position,” said Benedetti. “This subsidy will hopefully allow them to consider a less experienced youth candidate as it will provide for a period of learning and on-the-job training.”
That’s exactly what appealed to Dean Beers, who, with his wife, Roseanne, has owned and operated Orillia Floor Fashion Centre Carpet One for almost 27 years. The program was a perfect way to add new staff, to properly train them and to help young people garner much-needed experience.
“It’s a win-win,” explained Beers. “We were able to hire Jessica Wiles, a salesperson, during our off-season, send her to lots of training and take the time to invest in supporting her as she learned the flooring business. It has worked out really well.”
Wiles agreed. “Thanks to the CDC program, they could take their time with me, which I really appreciated. To be just thrown to the sharks, with a quota would have been tough,” she admitted. “This way, I was able to take advantage of a lot of training through Carpet One without any pressure. It’s been a really good fit.”
For Wiles, 29, the CDC program was a door opener. “It gives you the opportunity to meet with employers who might not have otherwise taken a chance on you because you don’t have experience,” said Wiles. “This opens that door. You’d be crazy not to jump at an opportunity like this.”
Wes Bennett agrees. The 22-year-old was hired through the program by Beers as the company’s new full-time warehouse associate last November. He looks after shipping and receiving, materials handling, chips in to assist with maintenance during slower times and also does deliveries when needed. “He’s our go-to guy, quite honestly,” said Beers with a smile.
Bennett is also happy with his new job. Prior to this opportunity, he had been unemployed and more accustomed to the up-and-down, seasonal nature of working in construction. “When you work with your hands, you’re very busy in the summer but there’s not much work in the winter, so this has worked out really well,” he said. “I really like the work. Working Monday to Friday has been great.”
For Beers, it’s the first time he’s opted to participate in such a program. “I’ll be honest, we’ve been in business going on 27 years and I’ve never used a program like this. I think it’s two things: you may not know programs are available and I also thought maybe there’d be so many hoops to jump through and red tape that it wouldn’t be worth it. But that hasn’t been the case at all. The CDC was great to work with, it was easy and they worked with us … I would definitely recommend other business owners sit down with the CDC to talk about this program. There’s very little risk.”
Both Bennett and Wiles also found it easy to navigate the process. “It was seamless,” said Wiles. “I met with (Benedetti) for an hour, she asked great questions about my education, skills, interests and then was able to provide some options. It was pretty easy.”
The Pathways to Employment program is in addition to the already operating Youth Works program offered by the CDC. Both programs provide wage subsidies of up to 75% to hire youth for varying lengths of time. For more information about the CDC’s programs, please contact Nichole King at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 705-325-4903 ext. 107.
Source: Packet & TImes