Working the wood-chip compressor at Klassen Wood Co. is dusty work. The machine compacts wood shavings into bales that are then wrapped into plastic and stacked 8 or 9 high. It requires stamina and constant attention, two things at which Jericho Spalding excels. Where others might find this a physically tiring, mentally tedious job, Jericho doesn’t see it that way.
Jericho (seen in the photo above, centre) is able to see beyond the work itself and appreciate the other things that make his job meaningful: reliable hours, a steady pay cheque, and a good work environment. He likes to surprise his workmates by bringing them coffee and donuts on occasion. Having a reliable income makes this possible.
Jericho is also grateful for an inclusive employer – someone willing to hire people with a variety of abilities.
“I like working here,” he says.
Being an inclusive employer is new to Klassen Wood Co. When Paul McCracken (photo above, left) an employment specialist with Communitas, approached them about considering Jericho, management was open to exploring possibilities.
Operations Manager, Ben Willms says there were a few things that encouraged them to hire Jericho. He came with good references, having done landscaping work with the city of Abbotsford. It also made a difference that Jericho would begin his work with support from Paul.
“Part of my role as an employment specialist is to accompany the people we serve for a few shifts to ensure that the employee understands the job,” Paul explains. “It’s also helpful for me to be there if the employer has questions or concerns.”
The experience has been very positive for everyone. Ben says that Jericho is one of their most consistent employees.
“He is always on time, shows up for every shift, and always puts in the same effort,” Ben says.
Joshua Hoock, vice president of operations, agrees. He says that Jericho’s consistency has made him a valued employee.
“He’s one of our longest serving workers, he’s been here nearly 3 years,” Joshua says, explaining that most of their staff are entry-level employees who move on to school or find other work.
Jericho doesn’t have plans to move on, rather he has plans to move up. One of his goals is to get his fork-lift license so that he can add to his skill-set. Jericho is pleased that his bosses are happy with his work.
Given how well it has worked out with Jericho, both Ben and Joshua say that they would recommend inclusive hiring to other businesses.
If you have the appropriate job for the skill level that people bring, they can be great employees. – Ben Willms, operations manager, Klassen Wood Co.
Joshua says hiring inclusively makes good business sense.
“I’d encourage others to try this based on the reliability aspect,” he says. “You do have to put in extra work to train someone but the net-benefit on the flip side is getting a quality, consistent worker who will do their job well. It’s totally worth it.”