Youth job coach offers inclusive summer employment support for students and employers in Huntsville

A young woman places a retail product on a store shelf.

Morgan’s skills, work ethic, and personality led her to a summer student position at Canadian Tire Huntsville where she and her employer were supported by something new – a Community Living Huntsville youth job coach. Photo by Community Living Huntsville.

Morgan wanted a real life with a real job and real pay.

“I wanted to work over the summer because I didn’t want to be bored,” says the Huntsville High School student. “And I want to have my own money so I can save.”

Morgan first gained hands-on work experience at Canadian Tire Huntsville through a high school Cooperative Education work placement in early 2022. Her work ethic and personality impressed the team, and she later accepted a paid summer staff position.

It was Canadian Tire Huntsville that reached out to Community Living Huntsville. Morgan accesses services through our Children and Youth Services team, and the business, as a supportive and inclusive workplace, wanted to do what it could to ensure successful employment for both its new team member and itself.

Morgan soon connected with a youth job coach through our Family Support team. The job coach shadowed her at work for about an hour and a half each week and made themselves available to the employer, if needed.

Neither Morgan nor her employer needed much support. Not only was Morgan a capable, reliable and motivated employee, but Canadian Tire was also a motivated employer. Management and staff offered Morgan on-the-job training, job shadowing and mentorship support, plus a flexible work schedule, should she need it. As importantly, fellow staff treated her as part of the team.

By the end of the summer, Morgan had such a strong and confident handle on her job that she was able to mock-train her Community Living Huntsville job coach on her role, which included tidying shelves, rehoming misplaced products, and operating equipment, like a recycling compactor.

She enjoyed a lot about her job.

“But mostly I liked the people who work in the store. They are fun,” said Morgan.

Her success was a result of her skills, ability, mindset, and determination as much as the commitment and support of an inclusive workplace.

“My boss is kind and he understands people with disabilities. That’s important,” she said.

Morgan’s position ended when she returned to school in the fall, but her employer has left the door open for her to return.

“I would like to work at Canadian Tire for a long time because sometimes you don’t find good people to work with, but Canadian Tire has so many good people,” she said.

An inclusive workplace can open doors to opportunities for both workers and employers.

Denise Boone, a team member with Canadian Tire Huntsville, says Morgan was such a good fit with the team during her co-op placement, and she was so eager to learn and work, that the summer position offered an opportunity for everyone.

“She did well,” says Denise. “She was very responsible, and she did help out quite a bit.”

Denise recommended other employers commit to creating inclusive work environments.

“Everybody deserves an opportunity in this world,” says Denise.

Community Living Huntsville has long offered its adult Supported Employment program, and has offered pre-employment and skills-building to youth through a JobPath program, but this summer was the first time the organization had directly supported youth, including Morgan, in the workplace.

Stacey Bullock, Manager, Children and Youth Services, for Community Living Huntsville, says employment is important on many levels for students.

“And gaining skills at this age prepares people for meaningful employment when they leave school,” says Stacey. “It is the same for all of us – we try out jobs as students and figure out what we like and where we want to go after high school.”

She considers the student summer job coach experience a success.

“This is an opportunity for students to grow and learn new skills. That may be that they learn this isn’t the job they like, but that is part of getting experience. Trying something new and learning is always a success,” says Stacey.

She adds that the organization plans to continue its summer employment support in future for students supported by the organization, who want to build on their high school co-op placement experiences.

“We don’t have a large program, so we are limited in the hours we have available, but this is definitely an area we want to grow,” says Stacey.