Two Comox Valley businesses honoured for diverse hiring

Vancouver Island Community Connections helps adults with developmental disabilities find meaningful employment.

Tyler Barker

Vancouver Island Community Connections, a local organization that helps adults with developmental disabilities find meaningful employment, has recognized two Comox Valley businesses for their inclusive hiring practices.

Blue Toque Sports Swap and Strathcon Industries Maintenance & Repair Products have each been singled out for their “ability to see beyond disability,” strengthening both their business and the community by hiring employees of diverse abilities.

“They’re leading by example,” says VICC director Lesley Gibson. “Lots of people talk about promoting an inclusive workplace, but Blue Toque and Strathcon are doing it.”

Brad Haugan, owner of Strathcon Industries, recently hired 20-year-old Tyler Barker through VICC’s Community Employment Program, which matches pre-screened employees with employers that have suitable job vacancies. Initially hired on a trial basis as a “parts-picker,” Barker quickly established himself as a valuable member of the Strathcon team, working with a high degree of organization and accuracy.

“If you don’t take the chance, you never know how it’s going to work out,” says Haugan. “Regardless of one’s education, experience or ability, parts-picking is a demanding job that lots of people haven’t been able to master. I’d really encourage business owners to try the VICC program.”

Barker splits his work time between Strathcon and Blue Toque, whose owners Paul and Salinas LaPerriere also hired him to cover one shift a week. Echoing Haugan’s praise, they say Barker has been a great asset, helping them open in the morning, organize the shop’s massive inventory and generally keep things flowing at a steady pace.

“This is a situation where everybody wins,” says Paul. “It works for us because we got a great new employee, it’s great for Tyler because he found a job and a schedule he enjoys, and it’s good for the community because maybe it will help eliminate some of the stigma that still exists. It was totally worth getting involved.”

VICC’s Community Employment Service customizes jobs to match the needs of employee and employer. Once a position is created, an employment specialist provides on-the-job training at no cost to the employer, which Gibson says has been one of the keys to the program’s success.

“Any employer knows that hiring and training can be two of the most frustrating parts of running a business,” she says. “We take that frustration out of the equation.”

For more information, contact a VICC employment specialist at viccemployment@gmail.com or 250-338-7201.

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