Canada’s minimum wage increase kicks in on April 1.
Workers in federally regulated private sectors such as banks, telecommunications, postal and courier services will earn $16.65 per hour, up from $15.55, to keep pace with inflation.
But not everyone has the ability to secure or maintain a job.
So a commercial bakery in Halifax is teaching people with physical, social or mental barriers how to be an employee and make some dough.
“It’s all individual, as it depends on what that person needs,” Stone Hearth Bakery manager Scott Butler told The Signal from his facility in west-end Halifax.
“For some people it can be just teaching them how to show up for work, how to take breaks and how to schedule their life around [it].”
MetroWorks Employment Association, a local non-profit organization, owns and runs this ‘inclusive social enterprise’; its other projects include the Ampersand Cafe, Common Roots Urban Farm, Mobile Food Market and Dollar Lake Canteen.
At the bakery, applicants are referred by case workers and care coordinators from different community service organizations.
Dozens of workers are brought on for one year.
They work five days a week, learning how a full-service bakery operates. They make European-style bagels, breads, and baked treats.
Tiffany Gildart is one of them.
“My experience working as a baker has been good so far,” said Gildart.
Most workers complete the program and move on, said Butler, but some choose to stay and work for the organization with their newly-acquired skills.
“They learn different aspects such as scaling in the buckets, baking mixes, or just handling the dough on the table,” said Butler.
“They all go through different aspects of why they are here, but it’s all about learning to come in, learning how to make the product, and at what stage they need to do it.”
Stone Hearth has been helping people since 1982 who have trouble finding and keeping jobs due to mental health challenges, according to a news release.
The bakery received a $172,000 grant from Ottawa through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s innovative communities fund back in January.
“The old equipment like the proofer was breaking down weekly and the oven didn’t work all that well, and then one day the firebox burnt out,” said Butler. With funding, they could buy “better, newer equipment that allowed us to double our capacity.”
They bought new commercial ovens, a proofer and a range hood to replace aging equipment in the main kitchen. The money was also used to upgrade Stone Hearth’s fire suppression system and install a higher capacity gas line.
Butler said the grant will also be useful in other areas. “It gives us a better chance to hire and train more people at the same time.”
Stone Hearth “now supplies baked goods to 44 restaurants, five large institutional customers and 14 retailers in Nova Scotia,” according to the news release.