Dave: Hi, and welcome to Talk to the Experts. I’m Dave Arnold. I’m actually really pumped about today’s show. It’s some really fascinating ground we’re going to be covering and again, a very special guest. I love to have her in the studio whenever she comes in, Nikki Langdon, the Prairie Regional Manager for the Neil Squire Society. Nikki, as always, so great to see you, thanks for being here.
Nikki: Great to see you Dave, thank you.
Dave: But you brought sidekicks this time.
Nikki: I did, I have friends, I had to pick them up, but I have friends.
Dave: Had to buy them a coffee.
Nikki: Yeah. We can’t even talk, yeah.
Dave: Robert is here. Robert, thanks very much for coming in.
Robert: Thank you.
Dave: And also Mark, Mark is in the studio with us.
Dave: Mark, good to see you.
Dave: I guess, Nikki to, start, let’s kind of set the table.
Nikki: Okay, so…
Dave: You know, for people who are not familiar with the Neil Squire Society, what you do, kind of give us some of the background information.
Nikki: Perfect. The Neil Squire Society is a national not for profit organization and we work with people with disabilities or barriers to employment, and it’s all about connecting people with employers, connecting people with the job market. We have several levels of work that we do. We meet the client exactly where they are on the continuum. So if they have zero computer skills, we start with that, give them some computer skill training, move them along the continuum into resume writing, job search skills, interview skills, all of those things, and then work right toward working one to one with the job developer to connect them to that employer, and in that, now, we have a wage subsidy program. We had it last year, we’ve got it again where we can subsidize client or an employee’s wage for the first three to six months depending. It is negotiable, and connecting them for it, supports the training period for the client though if the client takes a little longer training period, it helps the employer work that through. So they can afford to have that client, or for small business, who wants to expand and they don’t have the income right at that moment, then that helps them expand.
Nikki: It’s about connecting the client and employer with a really good fit. We have a lot of non profits that will write the job into the budget for the next round. The whole goal of the program now is to connect the employer and the client, help subsidize the wage until the training period is completed and then that employer is expected to keep that client after. It’s about connecting, educating and supporting our clients through employment and supporting employers to get great people.
Dave: And your clients, you know, the employees, the future employees, they maybe have disabilities, they may have some barriers. Typically the accommodation that’s needed to be made on the employer’s side is minimal.
Nikki: Minimal. The average is $200, that’s the average, $200, and we’re also able to support that in many cases with a different keyboard, a different mouse. It’s very often as minimal as a need for an hour off in the afternoon or ‘I need a quiet space to go to for a little bit, I need all my instructions written out, I need all my instructions verbally.’ It’s so small, accommodation is so small.
Dave: And this is why I’m glad, Robert and Mark, that you’re both here because I really want to kind of dive into this. This is one of those matches, this is one of those connections that has been made and I’d love to see it. Mark, Nikki was talking about, you know, they meet people on the continuum and they may kind of teach them the computer base. I’m thinking you might have skipped that class, you’re an IT guy.
Mark: I did skip that class.
Dave: Yeah, you skipped that part of it. What’s your involvement been like with Neil Squire Society. How’s that been for you?
Mark: Really good. Surprising, actually as to how low key, almost, it was. It wasn’t like they brought out what the issue was and then kind of made a glaring spotlight on it, right. No, they kept it very much as to more focusing on what I could do than what I couldn’t do, I guess. More focused on finding that fit.
Dave: Does that make a difference, that approach?
Mark: Yes. Immensely. Because you feel normal, right, you’re I guess, not, in some way.
Dave: Normal is a relative term. But it truly is.
Mark: It’s a big thing.
Mark: It’s a big thing, and it really helped me and it just made it simpler for me. Made me feel not so, I don’t know, out of place, I guess is the word for it.
Dave: What’s it meant for you to have a gig, to be working with Robert here, at his company?
Mark: It’s what I like doing. I’ve been doing this type of stuff for a very long time now and it’s been very hard to find somebody that I’ve really clicked with, and Robert’s quite amazing.
Robert: Yeah, it’s worked out really well. Yeah.
Dave: Mark, how did you come to this? In what sense? Information Technology or you know…
Dave: Robert, how did you kind of come to be involved with the Neil Squire Society because one of the things that Nikki and I have talked about before is, you know, it’s in part an education process for employers. To let them know that there are some phenomenal employees that are right here and there’s a pool of them that you can access. How did that journey begin for you?
Robert: I think, if you’re just open to opportunities, whether you’re an employer, those things, you tend to see them where you normally wouldn’t. And I’ve been working with Neil Squire though a non profit or a charity I formed a number of years ago called Community Computers in China, and one day, I ran into Mark and we were talking about IT employment opportunities with my company and that company is RescueTech CBAS Computer Services, and he asked me, I’m looking for work, I’m between jobs, you know, and things weren’t working out with what he was doing before. But I am a small business owner. I really wasn’t prepared to put the money out to hire someone on a full time. I was prepared for maybe a casual employee, someone to help me out so I can pursue other opportunities, growth opportunities for the business, but I really wasn’t sure. And I started looking around and I remembered chatting to Nikki and Dianne at the Neil Squire Society knowing that, you know, they may be aware of some type of programming that might be out there. I contacted them and we discussed some wage subsidy opportunities and employment training opportunities, and it just was a great fit for us, so yeah, perfect timing.
Dave: How’s it working out?
Robert: Really well, really, really well. It’s worked out a little better than I thought — it’s giving me a lot more. It’s freed up a lot more resources in a sense, energy to pursue opportunities for the business, and also by having that connection reinforced with Nikki and the Neil Squire Society. It feels good because, you know again, being that I own a business, but I also work closely with a registered charity as well. It’s nice to know that there’s that synergy there, that I can work with a community partner and, you know, find employment opportunities for others in the community as well, and it just feels good, you know, it makes it a really good opportunity, I think, for Mark and for Nikki and for myself and for my business, and other people who are looking for work as well, and are very able, very capable, but just need, just a very slight, seemingly insignificant adjustment to my business and my operation and it’s worked out really, really well for us so, yeah. I would definitely do it again.
Dave: And Nikki Langdon is with me as well. Prairie Regional Manager for the Neil Squire Society. Robert’s in the studio with me who runs a charity, a licensed charity and also has an IT company and of course, Mark, who is now working with Robert at his company. Well Nikki, to hear a story like this, I love this story by the way. Isn’t it great to hear these kinds of stories?
Nikki: It is so wonderful and we have so many of these stories. We are so lucky because all we are, are connectors. All we do is we hear what Robert needs and what he has to say. We hear what Mark needs and what Mark has to say. We’re just about connecting. It’s about connecting people and making things happen, and we are so lucky to be able to do that. And as Robert shared, accommodation is really, really small, and it’s just about, you know, trying something a little different.
Dave: We need to take a quick break. There’s so much more that we got to talk about. The Job Fair that we got to talk about coming up April 6th. We’re matching up potential employees and employers. There’s the prep workshops.
Dave: We’re going to take a quick break. In the studio with me, Nikki Langdon, Prairie Regional Manager for Neil Squire Society, Also Robert, business owner in town here, and Mark, who has been a client of Neil Squire Society and is now working at Robert’s company. We’re going to continue our conversation. We’ll be back with more after this on News Talk 980 CJME.
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