Blondie’s Parallel Lines spins on the turntable as Becca greets customers and works the espresso machine.
Making the perfect Americano —dark and rich with just the right amount of foam— is just one of Becca’s talents as an employee of Record City, a second-hand retail music store that sells records, cassettes, instruments, stereo equipment and also operates as a live music venue and coffee bar in downtown Vernon.
Becca is now employed thanks to her boss, Record City owner Kelvin Forgo, and the Employment Program of BC Wage Subsidy Program, which is administered through Community Futures North Okanagan.
The program provides wage subsidies to employers who hire and provide work experience and skills enhancement for eligible program candidates.
“Community Futures first helped me as an employee and then as an employer,” says Forgo. “Both my brother and my son have been on the wage subsidy program and so you could say we have all hugely benefitted from the program through Community Futures.”
Playing it Forward
Like a record that spins around, Forgo has been able to experience both sides of the need for subsidized wages. He was first introduced to Community Futures when he started looking for a different line of work.
“I had been working as a deck installer and had hurt my knees so had gone to (CFNO) for employment counselling. At the time, I asked my friend who ran a security company if he was hiring and CFNO got the ball rolling to help him hire me,” explains Forgo.
Forgo was able to secure work as an armoured car driver thanks to the wage subsidy program, which helps registered businesses secure employees and pay them reasonable, competitive wages.
During that time, Forgo also started helping out at a used music store in Vernon called Eclectibles.
“The record shop was such a zen job from the armoured car business. It gave me some peace of mind and was a place for me to forget all my problems, so when the owner decided to sell, I grabbed at the chance to buy it,” he says.
Renamed Record City, Forgo was able to move the business into its present-day digs, a former restaurant space on Vernon’s main street.
“We wanted to add a live music venue and we were lucky to find a landlord who wanted to support bringing more live music to the community,” says Forgo, adding, “You gotta love doing something like this because you’re not going to get rich doing it.”
When it came time to hire employees, Forgo knew he would have to spend a lot of time training them. That’s when he sought out Selena Stearns, CFNO Wage Subsidy Advisor, about the possibility of hiring someone through the Wage Subsidy services, which provides employers financial support to help with some of the costs of on-the-job training and skill development for new employees.
“We are aware that when a new employee is hired, the initial training can be quite time intensive and costly for employers and let’s face it, in this economy, every penny counts. The Wage Subsidy service can offset some of that cost, which allows an employer to invest the time into the orientation and training and thereby working towards cultivating a potential long-term employee,” says Stearns.
For Forgo, as a small business owner, the financial benefit allowed him to hire a full-time employee, versus part-time. He was able to spend the time providing the required training that, inevitably, gave him the time to attend to marketing, networking and growing his company.
“As well, it is important to note that Kelvin is an employer who is determined to train and take the time to understand his staff, which has resulted in a close, communicative and safe feeling work environment for everyone,” says Stearns.
Once a gardener, Becca had volunteered at music and art festivals and events in Vancouver, where she lived for 20 years before returning to her hometown of Vernon last fall.
She had a reason to come home. She had sustained a serious head injury in an accident and wanted to be closer to her family. On medical EI, she says gardening was no longer in her future and she had no idea of what she was going to do next. That is until she walked into Record City.
“Record City was one of the first places I went to when I arrived in town as I needed a needle for my record player. Kelvin was really helpful and I remember buying three tapes for a dollar while I was in there,” she says.
Becca became a regular at the store and soon after started volunteering at Record City shows.
When Forgo’s former employee announced he was leaving the store, Forgo suggested that Becca reach out to CFNO.
Potential employees can qualify for wage subsidy work experience if they are on employment insurance or have had claim in the last five years, lack work experience in a field or industry, and have recently obtained skills training but have no experience.
“With Becca, we were able to provide support on a multitude of levels,” says Stearns. “From intake and case management to the referral to this service, it is a team effort to assist a client. This has been a tremendous success as Becca is happy and feeling strong, capable and confident in what she is doing. What more can we ask for? By supporting the employer and the client, it is a win-win for all involved.”
“Before, I felt powerless that I would ever find work again, but getting into the Wage Subsidy Program taught me a lot about what I can do and what works for me now. It’s been great having the support of people who understand what you’re going through,” says Becca.
If you are a business owner or are currently on Employment Insurance and want to find out you are eligible for the Employment Program of BC Wage Subsidy Program, contact Community Futures North Okanagan’s Wage Subsidy Services at 250-545-2215 ext. 208.
Wage Subsidy is a program of WorkBC Employment Services and the Government of Canada.