Elizabeth joined the Mission Store team in the summer of 2017 on a work placement through Hutton House’s Goals, Preparation, Skills (GPS) program. The GPS program is designed for youth who face barriers to employment including learning, mental health, developmental, or physical disabilities. “There’s a wide range of what could be considered a barrier to employment”, said Elizabeth. Through work placements, participants “gain experience, build skills for a resume, and gain a reference for future employment”, explained Burt, Store Manager.
Elizabeth did not start her work placement journey at the Mission Store, though. She was originally placed at a restaurant. “I originally went to work at a restaurant but the environment didn’t work for me”, Elizabeth revealed. After further career exploration guided by her personal interests and employment goals, Elizabeth was happy to find herself at the Mission Store. “I liked it here because everyone was very understanding and very forgiving. Everyone is inviting and pleasant. It worked out well for me. I didn’t work in retail before but I enjoyed being here and enjoyed what I was doing”, she proclaimed.
Retail was a new environment for Elizabeth, but she did not let that hold her back. “I had never done cash or worked retail, scanning items, giving change… I was on the floor during placement so I started doing cash from the very beginning, and then putting away rolling racks, helping to arrange shelves, and putting away carts. Now, I do all of that and I am also in the back. I do regular pricing, white [boutique] tags, kid’s clothes, shoes, and purses”, she said proudly.
In fact, Elizabeth’s skills and confidence shined through so much during her placement that after just a couple of months, she was hired as a part-time staff member in the store. “I enjoyed being here and enjoyed what I was doing so when the chance to come back happened, it worked out really well”, she said. “She has been very successful in the role of Customer Service Rep”, said Burt while raving about her excellent performance.
Reflecting on her experience, a few components of her work placement and subsequent employment stood out to Elizabeth. Firstly, Mission Services of London is a Living Wage Employer which allowed her to be more financially comfortable than if she was to earn minimum wage. “Working here, I’ve been able to save up”, she said. Elizabeth is also fond of the interpersonal environment, explaining that “everyone is very understanding and do not judge you. They accommodate you the best they can and it’s not intimidating”.
Lastly, Elizabeth shares a common notion with Burt in that work placements offer unlimited opportunity and room for growth. “You can do a multitude of things here. You can learn cash, pricing, sorting in the back, being on the retail floor, interacting with customers. You can build a lot of different skills here”, she said. Burt agreed when he gladly exclaimed, “the sky is the limit as far as I’m concerned. We’ve had work placements working as cashiers, on the retail floor, and in the warehouse. There’s no limit to what they can learn!”
Written by Amy Bumbacco, Communications and PR Coordinator