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Construction employment agency eyes Canada expansion

Success of non-profit Embers Staffing Solutions drives potential cross-country growth
Embers CEO Marcia Nozick: “we attract [companies] who are serious about moving ahead because we train our workers and invest in them” | Chung Chow, BIV files

Ten years ago, Marcia Nozick launched Embers Staffing Solutions (ESS), a small non-profit temporary staffing agency for construction companies with a mission to provide job opportunities for workers facing barriers to employment, such as addiction issues or a criminal record.

ESS now supplies up to 300 workers per day to the construction industry, 40% of whom are First Nations members, and works with around 100 construction companies in British Columbia.

ESS is part of Embers, the Eastside Movement for Business and Economic Renewal Society founded by Nozick in 2001 as a community economic development charity for low-income residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“It is unique in Canada; we’re the only not-for-profit temporary staffing company,” Nozick told Business in Vancouver. “One hundred per cent of our profits are reinvested in training and equipment and moving people ahead.”

Last year, that meant hundreds of thousands of dollars reinvested in a training group, including the hiring of a certified trainer and partnering with a community outreach worker, said Doug Aason, director of business development at ESS.

As the agency has grown, however, increasing interest from outside of British Columbia has led Nozick to look seriously at expanding beyond the province’s borders.

“Our long-term strategy is to expand, and we’re looking at some other cities that have approached us across Canada,” said Nozick. “We’ve had a very successful model.”

That success is due in large part to the competitiveness of ESS, Nozick said, noting that feedback from partnered construction companies often highlights the well-trained staff that the organization produces.

“We attract [companies] who are serious about moving ahead because we train our workers and invest in them,” said Nozick. “They’re going to use that temporary labour anyway; why not make a socially responsible choice and help create better futures?”

Embers hosted its 10th annual charity golf tournament at the Tsawwassen Springs golf club on July 12. The event has often included emotional testimonials from some of the workers who have been helped by Embers.

“There’s rarely a dry eye in the house,” Aason said. “All the construction companies can know the impact that their work has had on our program.” •