Celebrating Grand Erie’s Essential Workers – Jim

Celebrating Grand Erie’s Essential Workers – Jim

Through Frontline Fridays the Workforce Planning Board of Grand Erie pays tribute to essential workers in our community. Essential workers have helped us cope with the COVID-19 pandemic in Brantford, Six Nations, New Credit, and the counties of Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk.

Today, in our Frontline Fridays feature we talk to volunteer firefighter Jim Kent. Jim has volunteered with the Haldimand County Fire Department Station 4 (Cayuga) for approximately 35 years.

Deputy Fire Chief Rodger Hill commends Jim for his outstanding contributions to the department over the years and during the recent pandemic crisis:

“Jim Kent has not only served our community, but our firefighters week after week. It is rare to come across someone who is so dedicated and trustworthy, and we want Jim to be recognized for that.

Jim is the co-chair of the Fire Joint Health and Safety Committee and sits on the County’s Health and Safety Co-Chairs committee. He is regularly involved in health and safety meetings, discussions, policy reviews, management of fire hall safety. More noticeably he takes the time to ensure these items, as well as Health & Safety Boards, are consistent in each hall.

Additionally, Jim maintains records, schedules and conducts fit testing for all firefighters on both Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus and N95 masks. Jim travels to each fire hall regularly throughout the year, to conduct fit testing – that is approximately 548 fit tests per year taking numerous hours!

Jim consistently goes above and beyond. Recently due to COVID, he has undertaken going to all the stations to disinfect/sanitize fire apparatus. He has also taken a great interest in assisting at the vaccine clinics taking place throughout the county.

Jim’s efforts have not gone unnoticed, and we would like to extend our thanks and gratitude for everything that he does.”  

What made you pursue this role?

Jim: Back in 1985, I was asked by the Fisherville deputy fire chief if I was interested in joining the local volunteer fire department. I was a bit apprehensive about it, but I said yes. At that time, you had to submit two letters of recommendation from two firefighters and then it went to a vote from the station firefighters. In January of 1986 I became a member of the department. I was then involved in the village community.

What was your education/training?

Jim: I have a Grade 12 education and no training in firefighting.  Once I joined the department, I was expected to attend station training every Monday evening.  It was also recommended that you would go to the Haldimand- Norfolk fire school weekend training sessions held once a year. The Haldimand County Fire Department now holds weekend training in specific subjects such as ice and water rescue, pump ops, live fire, etc. in addition to Monday night training.

What does the average day look like for you?

Jim: Although most days we do not have calls, we carry pagers which alert us to fire calls on a 24/7 basis which include fires, burning complaints, medical calls and similar. I am also the “worker co-chair” on the Health and Safety Committee which involves attending meetings

In my other tasks, I do fit testing of nearly 300 firefighters to make sure that they are wearing the proper Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) mask at fire scenes and the proper medical mask on medical calls. This testing is done during evenings on a 2-year cycle and includes updating fit test data on each firefighter.

Additionally, Haldimand County Fire Department has a fleet of 42 vehicles located in 12 different locations and I sanitize the trucks using a Noco-Sprayer on a 3-month basis. This process takes one hour per vehicle and about two full days a month.

How has Covid-19 affected your day-to-day work?

Jim: On medical calls, if patient is VSA (Vital Signs Absent), unconscious or Covid-19 positive, we now must wear gowns over our bunker gear/PPE, medical mask and gloves, face shield or goggles. If a patient is Covid-19 positive, personal protective equipment and gear must be washed on return to the firehall.

All trucks and equipment must now be wiped down with disinfectant after fire calls and training sessions. While riding in vehicles, in training sessions and on calls, every firefighter is required to be wearing a medical mask. As well, all tables and chairs in training rooms are now sanitized after each use.

Along with three or four other firefighters, I now also spend two days a week working at the vaccination clinic.  Our job includes directing traffic in the parking lot, directing people in the arena and helping seniors fill out the application form for vaccination.

What has it been like to be an essential worker during the pandemic?

Jim: During fit testing, I try to maintain as much social distancing as possible.  Due to disinfecting protocols, where it used to take 20 minutes to test a firefighter, it now takes 30 minutes minimum.

What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter?

Jim: I would say have a great interest and passion for being a volunteer in your local community and be dedicated in wanting to provide your time to training and attending calls. Someone can gain skills for becoming a volunteer firefighter from doing other volunteer service in the community, work experience or training, as well as athletic involvement. Challenging yourself to learn is important.

For information on how to become a volunteer firefighter with Haldimand County: Become a Volunteer Firefighter – Haldimand County

Local Training and Certification for firefighters and roles like Jim’s:

Ontario Fire Academy:

Get Professional Firefighter Training at Ontario Fire Academy

Ontario Fire Administration:

Firefighter Technical Skills Assessment | Ontario Fire Administration Inc. (ofai.ca)

Conestoga College:

Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training | Full-time | Ontario College Certificate (conestogac.on.ca)

Ontario Colleges:

Firefighting / Fire Systems | ontariocolleges.ca

Firefighters Association of Ontario:

Fire Fighters Association Ontario | We Are Working For You (ffao.on.ca)

Ontario Professional Firefighters Association of Ontario:

OPFFA – Home

Fanshawe College:

Fire Safety Systems | Fanshawe College

Mohawk College:

Mohawk College Emergency Operations Centre Management and Emergency Site Management Course | Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (oafc.on.ca)

Statistics Canada Occupational Profile:

NOC 2011 – 4312 – Firefighters – Unit group (statcan.gc.ca)

Search Local Fire Services Jobs:

Grand Erie Jobs  

Celebrating Grand Erie’s Essential Workers – David

Celebrating Grand Erie’s Essential Workers – David

Today, in our Frontline Fridays feature we talk to David Birtwell. David works as an AZ Truck Driver in the Cement Division at Stubbe’s Precast. Located in the County of Brant, Stubbe’s is a multi-faceted company that offers Structural and Architectural Precast Concrete, Redi-Mix Concrete and Bulk Cement products for the construction industry.

John Veldhuizen, Manager at Stubbe’s Cement describes the value of employees like David during the pandemic: “Dedicated drivers like David were especially important to us this past year because they kept our product moving on schedule and kept our customers inventories up so everyone could stay profitable. Without our truck drivers, we would not have been successful.” 

Through Frontline Fridays the Workforce Planning Board of Grand Erie pays tribute to essential workers in our community. Essential workers have helped us cope with the COVID-19 pandemic in Brantford, Six Nations, New Credit, and the counties of Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk.

What does an average day look like for you?

David: Since starting at Stubbe’s last summer, I have enjoyed driving for the powder division out of Princeton Ontario. This division delivers bulk powder cement to Stubbe’s plants and their customers throughout southern Ontario and Michigan.

During the summer when the powder division is at its busiest, I drive the afternoon shift, so I typically start late morning and end around midnight. The stagger of start times in the powder division gives us the flexibility to deliver to customers almost 24hrs a day when needed. 

How has Covid-19 has affected your day-to-day work? 

David: Last August I was referred to Stubbe’s Precast through a coworker and was told even though Canada was in the midst of a pandemic they were extremely busy. Lots of construction was still going on that was considered essential.

The pandemic hasn’t affected an AZ driver as much as other occupations. We are naturally isolated in our trucks and when we are in contact with customers and in their buildings, we wear masks.  Less paperwork is now exchanged and many of our customers request that we wear gloves when handling their equipment. A unique side effect of the pandemic lockdowns was less traffic to contend with in the GTA, which made driving easier.

What have been the greatest rewards and challenges in your work? What have been greatest supports for coping as an essential worker this past year? 

David: Making sure supplies and products needed for projects get there has been important. Management, as well as fellow drivers, have gone out of their way to welcome me and help me learn how to be a successful team member. I have seen first-hand Stubbe’s core values of hard work, teamwork, ethics, dependability and ownership being demonstrated in all areas of the business.

What made you pursue your career? What lead you to take a job in this community? 

David: It was about 4 years ago that I started considering getting my AZ license. I was attracted to this career because I knew a few AZ drivers and recognized how strong the demand for drivers is. The existing shortages of drivers are big plus a lot of truck drivers are above the age of 45 and looking ahead at retirement. I was referred to Stubbe’s Precast through a coworker and went to work for them out of their Princeton location.

What was your education/training? 

David: I obtained my license through a Kim Richardson Transportation Specialists in Caledonia. It was a great school and one of the only ones that is government approved for EI career upgrades. The rest of my training was done on the job

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing your career? 

David: For anyone considering getting their AZ license I would recommend talking with as many AZ drivers as they can. There are so many different jobs within the trucking community; from long haul to local delivery; from dry van to tanker. Each one requires a unique skill set and has a different work/life balance.

To learn about opportunities with Stubbe’s Precast, visit Stubbe’s Careers

Local Training and Certification for careers like David’s:

Ontario Truck Driving School:

Call Brantford – OTDS | Ontario Truck Driving School

Kim Richardson Transportation Specialists:

Course information | KRTS Transportation Specialists Inc. (krway.com)

Tri-Country Training School:

Tri-County Training Truck Driving School Serving Kitchener, Cambridge… (tri-countytruck.com)

Mohawk College:

Air Brake Training | Mohawk College Continuing Education

Fanshawe College:

Fanshawe College – Fanshawe to offer Essential Skills for Truck Drivers program (educationnewscanada.com)

Z (Air Brake) Training & Test | Fanshawe College

Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada:


Statistics Canada Occupational Classification:

NOC 2011 – 7511 – Transport truck drivers – Unit group (statcan.gc.ca)

Search Local AZ Driver Jobs:

Grand Erie Jobs 



Celebrating Grand Erie’s Essential Workers – Sharon

Celebrating Grand Erie’s Essential Workers – Sharon

Today, in our Frontline Fridays feature we talk to Sharon Brooks, Executive Director of Kids Can Fly, a local charitable organization that works with children and families supporting early learning and parenting.

Through Frontline Fridays the Workforce Planning Board of Grand Erie pays tribute to essential workers in our community. Essential workers have helped us cope with the COVID-19 pandemic in Brantford, Six Nations, New Credit, and the counties of Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk.

What is a typical day at Kids can Fly and how has Covid-19 affected your day-to-day work?  

Sharon: Before COVID-19 I worked from a home office, so the change was less for me to adjust to than our programming staff.

Kids Can Fly works with children and families and our work is based on the importance of relationships. Not being able to come together in person and offer support, modeling and creative programming presented a huge challenge when the pandemic began.

Being in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) field for over 40 years, I have concerns for young children’s emotional health as they are navigated through this unprecedented time. I am overwhelmed with the resilience of children that I have witnessed and the skills and determination of ECE’s who care for them.  As a charity, Kids Can Fly aims to be able to continue to offer support for parents – who need that reassurance more than ever.

When the pandemic started, our frontline staff person – Jane Flinders – who has a wealth of experience, managed the pivot to virtual programming in an amazing fashion. Jane quickly put together engaging virtual programming for children who normally attended our Launch Pad drop-in program. Songs, stories and crafts were offered via Facebook and parents were hungry to bring this normalcy to their children. Some days we have over 1000 hits and people from other communities and even other countries are joining in! 

Jane’s co-host is her preschool aged granddaughter Lucy who is so relatable to the other children. Sometimes they pre-record baking or going for a walk in the woods for the children at home to enjoy. In the fall, we added to this by providing free porch-dropped Kits for Launch From Home activities which allows children to participate in crafts, musical activities and get other home ideas from the newsletter we include.

Kids Can Fly offers weekly programs for the 1 in 5 women who experience postpartum depression or anxiety. During COVID-19 this has magnified so continuing to reach out to these moms was imperative. This was achieved through ZOOM and in the later part of the summer – moms gathered with Jane at Mohawk Park to sit socially distanced and participate in discussions. The need for human contact is so great. 

Kids Can Fly also created a new program shortly after the pandemic hit. HUGS4NEWMOMS is offered Monday mornings and was developed for women having a new baby in during the pandemic’s isolation. During this stressful time in life – without the benefit of family support – this group was really helpful and continues to be well attended by other moms who have had winter babies. 

One of the strengths of Kids Can Fly has been the ability to pivot and address local gaps in service quickly. That being said – it would not have been successful without the high level of skill and commitment from Jane, our other staff and volunteers.

What have been the greatest rewards and challenges in your work?

Sharon: I believe our full Team would agree that we are very proud of the way we were able to show flexibility and quickly change how we supported families – in an engaging and meaningful way. Our Dolly Parton Imagination Library program (where children are mailed a book each month) was NOT impacted by COVID-19 and this has been so appreciated by families. The book arriving in the mail each month offers normalcy to children and they enjoy reading it together with their parents. 

I have had an extremely rewarding career working with children and families. I was the original Executive Director of Kids Can Fly and we are celebrating our 20th Anniversary this year!  I know that programs we have offered have made a difference in the lives of so many children and I am also appreciative that this wouldn’t have been possible without the talented staff, caring board members, volunteers and generous sponsors.  

The greatest challenge for Kids Can Fly is the inability to hold fundraising events – as we must raise our own money. We have been able to adapt some fundraisers to a virtual or porch drop format but overall, the pandemic has impacted our annual income. We are so grateful SC Johnson recently made an incredibly donation of $150, 000 towards growing the Our Dolly Parton Imagination Library program locally. Currently we send books to almost 2000 local kids monthly.

What have been your greatest supports and means of coping as an essential worker this past year? 

Sharon: Kids Can Fly has a strong Team that inspires and motivates each other. Staff, board members and volunteers are committed to investing in early learning and parenting and cheer each other on.

Feedback from families on how children enjoy the programming or books is always an emotional reward too!

What was your education/training? 

Sharon: I took my Early childhood Education training almost 50 years ago!  To work frontline with Kids Can Fly you need a diploma in early childhood education or equivalent. To work in the management capacity training in Fundraising and Project management plus strong written and oral and computer communication skills are needed as well.

What made you pursue your career? What lead you to take a job in this community? 

Sharon: As a teenager I wanted a career with young children and have always known it was the right choice for me. After working hands-on with children for 3 decades I moved into an Executive Director position. I was hired for this job when Kids Can Fly was created based on my frontline experience and skills gained from volunteering, including major fundraising, which I learned while I was with the Canadian Equestrian Team. I knew it would be rewarding.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing your career? 

Sharon: Volunteering is always beneficial to see if the career is a good fit. In normal times, we use volunteers in our programs and the more experience one has the more marketable they are. Also, it helps to make sure this field is right for you. It’s high energy and requires patience.

If you would like to learn more about the organization, visit Kids Can Fly or follow them on Facebook.

Local Training and Certification for careers like Sharon’s:

Conestoga College:

Early Childhood Education | Full-time | Ontario College Diploma (conestogac.on.ca)

Senior Leadership and Management in the Not-For-Profit Sector | Continuing Education | Conestoga College

Six Nations Polytechnic:

Early Childhood Education (0106) | Six Nations Polytechnic (snpolytechnic.com)

Fanshawe College:

Early Childhood Education | Fanshawe College

Applied Fundraising Practices | Fanshawe College

Mohawk College:

Early Childhood Education – 213 | Mohawk College

SkillsAdvance Ontario: ECE Assistant Training – EDUC 10062, CRED 10148 | Mohawk College

Fundraising | Mohawk College Continuing Education

Wilfrid Laurier University:

Youth and Children’s Studies (BA) | Wilfrid Laurier University (wlu.ca)

The Child & Adolescent Research and Education Lab | Wilfrid Laurier University (wlu.ca)

Statistics Canada Occupational Profile:

NOC 2011 – 0423 – Managers in social, community and correctional services – All examples (statcan.gc.ca)

NOC 2011 – 4214 – Early childhood educators and assistants – Unit group (statcan.gc.ca)

Search Local Early Childhood Education Jobs:

Grand Erie Jobs


Celebrating Grand Erie’s Essential Workers – Julia

Celebrating Grand Erie’s Essential Workers – Julia

Today, in our Frontline Fridays feature we talk to Special Constable Julia Bergsma. Julia works for Wilfrid Laurier University in the Special Constable Service Division.

In our Frontline Fridays series, the Workforce Planning Board of Grand Erie pays tribute to essential workers in our community. Essential workers have helped us cope with the COVID-19 pandemic in Brantford, Six Nations, New Credit, and the counties of Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk.

What does an average day look like for you?

Julia: The Laurier Special Constable Service (SCS) is open 24/7 to respond to calls for service at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Brantford and Waterloo campuses. As a sworn officer with the Laurier SCS, an average day begins by participating in roll call and being briefed by my colleagues who worked on the prior shift.

Throughout our shifts we patrol campus by vehicle, foot (or bike when the weather permits) to conduct security checks and respond to any on campus emergencies or general calls for service. We are dispatched to calls through the SCS Communications Centre. Special constables can make arrests and lay charges under the same authority as police officers.

SCS regularly connects with Laurier stakeholders to ensure the service reflects the wants and needs of the campus, and is creating a positive, student-centred environment. We listen to concerns, offer education and crime prevention programs for students, faculty and staff, and employ the Ontario Mobilization and Engagement model of community policing. We strive to provide a caring and professional atmosphere ensuring we are respectful and committed to Indigeneity and equity, diversity and inclusion as part of our core values.

We must document our work activities, and each shift we must complete written reports for all calls for service.

How has Covid-19 has affected your day-to-day work?  

Julia: We have additional safety requirements in place, including wearing face masks and regularly disinfecting our shared workplaces. Laurier SCS has an app, called SAFEHawk, which students can use to contact us. The app now also includes a self-screening assessment tool for COVID-19 that all Laurier employees – including special constables – must complete before coming on campus. With our campuses quieter than usual because many are studying from home there is a heightened need for us to be proactive in our patrols of campus.

What has it been like to be an essential worker during the pandemic? 

Julia: Being an essential worker during the pandemic has its share of difficulties and stressors. Much of our day is spent interacting with different people whether they be from the Laurier community or the community at large. In a time where social distancing is of high importance, we understand It may not always be possible. We take every precaution to limit the chances of exposure to our team, or by our team.

It’s not uncommon for us to interact with and provide support for marginalized members of our community. We do our best to help everyone we interact with. This winter our team, along with the Laurier Wellness Centre, St. Leonard’s Community Services and the Salvation Army assembled cold weather kits with hats, mitts, socks, snacks and other essential items to give out to people we encounter who may need them. We’ve also been involved in recent incidents of drug overdoses where lives were saved by special constables by administering CPR, first aid and naloxone.

What have been the greatest rewards and challenges in your work?

Julia: I became a special constable because I wanted to help people and make a difference. That’s my goal when I come to work each day: to try and make a positive contribution. As a Laurier alumna, I also enjoy the opportunity to be able to mentor students who are looking for support.

In terms of challenges, the community we serve is always changing. Each year students graduate, and new students start. This creates an ongoing need for us to educate incoming students as to who we are and how we can help so that they make use of our services when they need them during their years at Laurier.

Another great reward is the opportunity to work at convocation at the Sanderson Centre. Many times we see students who we have assisted at some point in their journey crossing the stage at the graduation ceremony to receive their degrees. It’s rewarding to see them accomplishing their goals. Laurier has a genuine sense of community, making it a great place to work.

What have been your greatest supports and means of coping as an essential worker this past year? 

Julia: I know that all members of our team have dealt with the challenges of the pandemic in different ways. For me personally, getting exercise and staying physically active has been a big help. I’ve also appreciated being able to lean on friends and family for support. I’m grateful to have a supportive workplace with coworkers and supervisors you can rely on.  We’re always checking in on each other and doing our best to maintain a positive mindset. As an institution that promotes well-being, Laurier also has several different resources available to staff.

What made you pursue your career? What lead you to take a job in this community? 

Julia: I enjoyed being part of the community as a Laurier student in Brantford and always appreciated the work that SCS did on campus. I knew that I wanted to work within law enforcement, but for a service that focused on education and community support. For me, Laurier SCS fit that bill. I really appreciate the opportunity to work with people in the community, build connections, provide assistance to those who are in need and offer support to victims of crime.

When you look at the Laurier SCS team, we all come from a diverse set of backgrounds. Some, like me, are recent alumni. Others are former police officers. Regardless of background, we’re all drawn to the opportunity to make a positive difference.

What was your education/training? 

Julia: I graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University’s Brantford campus with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Contemporary Studies. Some of my colleagues have diplomas in legal studies, police foundations, or degrees in Criminology or other fields. Several are pursuing further education via the online Policing Program offered at Laurier.

Special constables are required to meet specific training standards as identified in the agreement between the local Municipal Police Service and the university for continued employment. We receive annual block training with the Brantford Police Service. As part of our onboarding we also participate in training on anti-oppression, micro aggression and implicit bias, and indigenous awareness.

With our director’s support we can pursue other ongoing education and training opportunities. For example, I completed training in de-escalation and mental health awareness. I continually seek opportunities for ongoing learning and improvement.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing your career?

Julia: I’d strongly suggest pursuing post-secondary education. Regardless of your field of study, further education will help hone the critical thinking skills, empathy and collaborative skills you’ll need to be successful as a special constable. I’d also suggest getting involved in your community as a volunteer and maintaining a high level of physical fitness. I think it’s also essential to maintain a growth mindset. Continually challenge yourself to learn, challenge your assumptions, and be open to new ideas, viewpoints and opportunities.

Learn more about Laurier’s Special Constable Service here.

Local Training, Education and Certification for careers like Julia’s:

Laurier University

Criminology (BA) | Wilfrid Laurier University (wlu.ca)

100% Online Policing and Criminology Degrees | Wilfrid Laurier University (wlu.ca)

Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police:

Becoming a Special Constable – OACP Certificate Testing

Home – OACP Certificate Testing

Mohawk College

Police Foundations – 218 – 258 | Mohawk College

Conestoga College

Police Foundations | Full-time | Ontario College Diploma (conestogac.on.ca)

Westervelt College

Law, Security and Police Foundations – Westervelt College

Fanshawe College

Police Foundations (Accelerated) | Fanshawe College

Statistics Canada Occupational Classification:

NOC 2011 – 4311 – Police officers (except commissioned) – Unit group (statcan.gc.ca)

Search Police Service Jobs:

Grand Erie Jobs


Celebrating Grand Erie’s Essential Workers – Laura

Celebrating Grand Erie’s Essential Workers – Laura

In this week’s Frontline Fridays feature we talk to Laura Middelkoop, a Grade 12 student at Brantford Collegiate Institute. Frontline Fridays stories pay tribute to Grand Erie essential workers in the communities of Brantford, Six Nations, New Credit, and the counties of Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk. 

During COVID-19, Laura has been working two part-time jobs: at Metro Grocery Store and the Chartwell Tranquility Place Retirement Residence in Brantford.

Laura’s great grandfather, Mick Collins, who was a resident of Tranquility Place sadly passed away during the time this interview was conducted. The staff of the Workforce Planning Board of Grand Erie wish to extend our deepest condolences to Laura and her family during this difficult time. Thank you Laura, for sharing your story.

What does an average day look like for you?

Laura: I am a student at BCI and during my evenings and weekends, I work two part-time jobs – at Metro as a cashier and I also work at Chartwell Tranquility Place retirement residence as a receptionist and screener..so it is busy! I am a full-time Grade 12 student and when I am not at one of my jobs, I am currently taking both in person and online classes. I am working hard towards attending university this fall for theatre production.

How has Covid-19 has affected your day-to-day work? 

Laura: I have been working at Metro for almost three years, strictly as a cashier. Once the pandemic began, Metro was required to have an employee at the front door to screen all staff and costumers as they entered. I took this opportunity to expand my hours and help out with different departments in the store. Recently, Metro has started to offer online orders with contactless pick up. I took on the responsibility of picking online orders. I understand how important it is to keep our most at-risk customers safe and to discourage more people from going out.

I had been volunteering at Tranquility Place from a young age. When the pandemic hit, I knew I needed to step up and begin working in supporting the retirement community. I worked full time from March to August 2020 delivering mail and packages, doing paperwork, screening incoming visitors and staff, helping in the kitchen, running activities and the tuck shop, and providing companionship and support for the residents. When I returned to full-time school classes in September, I settled in and began working part-time as a screener and receptionist. 

What has it been like to be an essential worker during the pandemic?

Laura: It is an honour to be an essential worker during the Covid-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic I have been working at two very different essential workplaces and as both my parents are also essential workers, I have seen the pandemic from various angles. I have seen myself and my co-workers go through the highs and lows while working during these times. With changes coming my way every day at work, I think being flexible and focused are the two most important skills I have developed.

What have been the greatest rewards and challenges in your work?

Laura: I try to be very personable when I am working. Having to wear a mask and maintain social distancing has made it much harder to have meaningful interactions with people. At Metro my shifts are much quieter and I miss the silly banter with customers.

Communicating with residents at Tranquility place who have a hearing impairment has been more challenging due to personal protective equipment and social distancing. The greatest reward at Tranquility Place is seeing the positive impact that I could make on other’s lives. I realized just how important the small things can be.

I also got to work in the same building that my great grandfather Mick Collins lived in – a place where visitors have been drastically restricted. He recently passed and it was an incredible gift that I got to see him on his 100th birthday.

What have been your greatest supports and means of coping as an essential worker this past year? 

Laura: The most reassuring thing this past year has been knowing that I am not alone. As a cashier at Metro, I am constantly ringing through healthcare professionals, trades people, first responders, and many other essential workers. Seeing these other essential workers all around me inspires and reminds me that we are all working through this together. To cope with the added pressures, I have been trying to take better care of myself this year both physically and mentally. With any extra spare time I have, I’ve been keeping my mind busy by working hard on my university application portfolios.

What made you pursue the work you do in your current jobs? What lead you to take a job in this community? 

Laura: Working at Metro has been my part-time job for many years. In early pandemic days, I saw how quickly we would run out of stock. I realized then how important working in a grocery store is. I decided I needed to do more so I took on other roles in the store.

I joined the team at Tranquility Place because I recognized the community needed assistance. I knew that I needed to step up and do my part to help Brantford’s senior population. It will be very bittersweet to move on from these jobs as I go on to study my passion of theatre in university.

What was your training/education? 

Laura: I took on the part-time jobs at both Metro and Tranquility Place as a high school student. When I started, I went through each workplace’s specific orientation and training programs. However, training, learning, and adapting never stops in my jobs. I participate in training programs, group communications, staying on top of directives and policies from the provincial government, local public health, and other governing bodies.

What advice would you give to someone interested in following a similar path?

Laura: For students looking to start their employment and career path, I would like them to know that both jobs have been great experiences for me. Lots of chances for new things. Both Metro and Tranquility Place offer opportunities for developing career pathways.

My best advice for students looking for a part time job is to get involved in the community and get your name out there; you never know when the perfect opportunity may come up.

For local training, certification and volunteer and entry level job opportunities for positions like Laura’s:

 Job & Training Opportunities

Careers  | Metro

Ontario – Sobeys Jobs (sobeyscareers.com)

Retail as a Career Scholarship Program | Retail Council of Canada

Certified Food Handler : Retail Council of Canada – RetailEducation

Food / Beverage | ontariocolleges.ca

Student Employment 2021 – Haldimand County

Get help finding a youth or student job | Ontario.ca

Free Training for Hospitality IndustrySkills2Work | CCES Fanshawe College

Find jobs in Brantford, Brant, Haldimand, Norfolk, Six Nations-New Credit (workforceplanningboard.org)

Welcome to NPAAMB


Chartwell Retirement Residences Volunteer Opportunities (careersatchartwell.com)

volunteers | brava-website (bravabrant.com)

Volunteer – City of Brantford

Volunteer – Brant County

Volunteer Opportunities – Norfolk County

Community Youth Resources and Assistance

Youth Employment Skills Strategy – Work Readiness and Advancement Program (WRAP) | St. Leonard’s (st-leonards.com)

Job Seeker :: Career Link

The Student Office – GREAT (greatsn.com)


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