Castlegar Tim Hortons owners Chris and Kathy Sykes were awarded with an Award of Excellence for employing persons with disabilities by the Kootenay Career Development Society (KCDS). The Sykes have been working with KCDS as part of the Thrive program for several years. “The support they have given the clients that they have taken on, goes above and beyond,” said Thrive program coordinator Jen Barclay. “They have gone above and beyond and given emotional support and personal support to these clients with patience and kindness. Chris and Kathy are really on the side of their employees. They care about them.”
KCDS operates the Thrive program to support people with disabilities and barriers to employment including developmental, language and mental health issues. A support worker works with the client for a period of time, getting to know them and their needs and then will approach an employer that has been targeted as a good match for the client. After the employee has a job placement, the support worker works with both the employer and the employee providing job coaching and helping with problem solving. “I stay in both the employer and employee’s life, so I am kind of always the mediator,” said Barclay. “We are very dedicated to the long term success for the clients. The way that works is by providing support for both the employee and the employer.”
For the clients, who often lack support in their lives, the program offers a path to getting a job which in turn reduces social isolation, enabling them to get out a be a part of the world.
Kathy Sykes is pleased with how things have turned out for them at Tim Hortons. “It has been an excellent exercise. We have two really really fantastic people working for us,” she said. “It’s a win, win. It’s good for our business and its great to see how far she (their Thrive employee) has come.”
Barclay reports that there is no shortage of clients, but there is a shortage of willing employers. She would like to get the word out that there are lots of benefits of hiring someone with disabilities including wage subsidies and loyal long term employees. “Often when someone works that hard to get a job, they are so grateful for the job. They are more loyal and hard working,” said Barclay. “The benefit to employers is high, it is a good business decision.” Chris Sykes would agree, “It was challenging, but we have learned a lot,” he said of their experience. “What we have learned is that there are rewards to this program. Some of the rewards are loyalty and longevity of employment.”
According to Barclay, evidence shows that hiring persons with disabilities increases profits through decreased sick time, higher employee retention, increased productivity and infectious appreciation. Anyone interested in the Thrive program can contact Jen Barclay at the Kootenay Career Development Society.