Finding a good fit at the corner store

In January 2016, when Aaron Allison teamed up with Stephanie Valois, a job developer at Dengarry Professional Services in Quesnel, Aaron already had a seasonal job he had found on his own. He was a bellhop at the Tower Inn, a local hotel, when the Rocky Mountain Tour comes to town. In April 2016, Stephanie helped Aaron acquire more seasonal work with Gopher Recycling, a local recycling plant, where he works one day a week, spring through fall.

“I like to help people and I like to stay busy,” says Aaron. “I play soccer, bowling, basketball, swimming and floor hockey as part of Special Olympics. This year, I will be playing goalie as part of the soccer team going to Kamloops for the games. On the weekends, I also am security for the local Kangaroo hockey team, and I like to play golf and run track and field.”

Aaron’s goal was to work year round but he needed to balance his job around his other activities. As part of the Community Action Employment Plan, CLBC is working with employment service providers and other stakeholders to help people like Aaron not only find jobs, but increase their hours of work if that is their goal.

An opportunity arose for Aaron in September 2016, when Stephanie attended an employer appreciation luncheon in Quesnel where Chris Arnold from PNGI presented on the benefits of inclusive hiring.  One of the employers who attended the luncheon was Fran, the manager from the local 7-Eleven. Stephanie knows initiating relationships and finding potential employment opportunities is part of the outreach work for employment services. She decided to reach out immediately.

“After Chris’s presentation, I could hear Fran exclaim how excited she was about the thought of hiring inclusively,” says Stephanie. “I went right over to her and told her I could help.  We arranged for me to take a tour of the store to see if there was an opportunity to customize a position.”

During the tour of the store, Fran and Stephanie identified needs such as the coffee bar not getting its regular twice a week cleaning.  Stephanie immediately thought Aaron might be a good match for the potential job at 7-Eleven because of his love of helping people.  She also knew he is meticulous and detailed in anything he does, and his social network in Quesnel is huge, a potential asset for the employer. After speaking with Aaron about the job, she set up a time with Fran for Aaron to come and do a trial run at the store.  Aaron so impressed Fran and the customers that she started the paperwork immediately to hire him, while Stephanie developed a formal proposal to get approval from 7-Eleven corporate headquarters for the customized job.

Stephanie is no stranger to having to develop proposals to demonstrate to employers how customizing a job and hiring inclusively can positively affect their bottom line.  However, the proposal she wrote for Fran was the most comprehensive she had ever written as a job developer. In the proposal, she made sure to outline how hiring Aaron would not only keep the coffee bar cleaner and up to standards, but it would bring more people into the store thereby increasing the store’s revenue.  The proposal was well-received and approved first by 7-Eleven corporate headquarters in Vancouver and then in Dallas, Texas. Aaron has been working at 7-Eleven since December 2016.

“Aaron works at the 7-Eleven two hours, two days a week – and he loves his job!” says Stephanie. “The natural supports provided by Fran and the other staff are incredible, and Fran has been willing to work around Aaron’s schedule of other activities.  With all the support and encouragement he receives, Aaron is able to work quite independently and without much support from me.”

As spring and summer gets closer, Aaron is also preparing to return to Gopher Disposal (Aaron recently made the decision to not return to the Tower Inn). He and Stephanie have already started discussions with Gopher to schedule his work around his regular job at 7-Eleven.

“The employers in Quesnel have been incredibly supportive and flexible, and are really dedicated to hiring inclusively,” says Stephanie. “I and my co-worker Ruth Ann are currently working with 35 people and only three are without work. That is real testament to the employers in this community.”

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