by Richard Perry
Teacher Wayne Toney stood before a packed conference room at the Paqtnkek Health Centre. After three weeks of classroom training, he paid a huge compliment to the men and women about to receive their certificates.
“You’ve been a marvellous group,” said Toney, a veteran instructor and psychotherapist who led the group through a training program designed to prepare them for positions at the new Bayside Travel Centre or wherever their interests lie.
“At times we went outside our cultural comfort zone,” he said. “But you took on the challenges and learned to become more self-aware and self-confident.”
The $11 million travel centre, due to open later this winter, will need about 30 full-time, part-time and casual clerks, cashiers and custodial staff. Earlier this month, 24 men and women graduated from an intensive security course. They’ll soon begin on-the-job training.
Serving a much wider public audience is new to this small community east of Antigonish. Jobs are scarce, limited to the Band administration office, tobacco shop, entertainment centre and gas bar.
There are also seasonal jobs in the lobster, oyster and snow crab industries, but nothing on a scale like Bayside, designed to accommodate tourists and long-haul truckers.
Robert ‘Rocket’ Marshall, 54, has always worked but says this readiness training was an excellent upgrade, which he hopes to parlay into a management position. “I hope they put on more training like this for new opportunities.”
Patricia Prosper, 38, has worked for the Band in various positions.
With an outgoing, friendly personality, she’s also keen on finding work at the new travel centre, which is a short walk over the new interchange to the south side of the reserve.
Sarah Paul feels the same way. “Finding work in town can be quite challenging,” said this engaging 34-year-old.
“To have Bayside within walking distance is a huge benefit.”
Paqtnkek’s new native employment officer, Charmaine Jesty, said the pre-employment training was funded by Nova Scotia Works. And it covered a lot of ground.
“From first aid, CPR, time management, customer service skills, occupational health and safety…even food handling and resumé preparation,” she added.
Toney, who recently returned to the Annapolis Valley to set up his own practice after a long career in western Canada, left his students with an inspiring message.
“If you want to work, you have to follow work, and go where your heart is. It begins with you giving love and care and consideration to others, and I promise you, it will all come back in spades.”