Emma says Goodbye to EMBERS
Emma Gallant is an essential part of the EMBERS team. As the EMBERS Staffing Solutions‘ Receptionist and Dispatcher, Emma makes breakfast for the workers and sends them to job sites in the morning. Unfortunately for us, she is moving back home to England and is saying goodbye to our team. Here’s our interview with Emma before she leaves.
How did you get involved with EMBERS?
Probably about seven years ago, I did my first year of electrician school at VCC. When that was done, I did work experience for a couple of months for free, being told I would get employment with this company when I was done. And then when I was done they didn’t hire any of us, which was really awful. As I found out, if you are a woman working in construction, it’s very hard to get hired anywhere because the apprentice first-year electricians want you to be doing things like hefting massive spools of wire up and down stairs. I could not get hired anywhere for the first year.
I learned about EMBERS around the time of the Olympics and found out they were looking for people to work in all kinds of different areas. One of the things they were looking for were electricians. So, I came in and had an interview, and then I did general labour for EMBERS for about a month. My very first job I went out for Panther Construction, and I shoveled gravel for four hours, and I almost died. I am a small little person. It was very hard work for me.
But at my second job at EMBERS, I went to work at one of the Olympic sites and I screwed massive plugs onto cables in the electrical tent for a day, and that was really fun. Then, someone at the EMBERS office, back on Pender, was going on holiday and they needed coverage for two or three weeks. They knew I had lots of admin and office skills, so I got hired temporarily to cover that. Then it was getting busier, and someone else wanted to leave, so I just ended up staying and working in the EMBERS office full-time.
I actually moved EMBERS into this office at Woodward’s. Most of those IKEA desks you see were assembled by me. Actually, a bunch of us came in on a Saturday, and we moved all the stuff over from the small little scary office on Pender. Somewhere on my phone, I have photos of this space, as I saw this space even before Marcia did.
What kind of work have you done most recently at EMBERS?
I work at the front desk, so I answer the phone. I greet people when they are coming in, and I am the first one here in the morning. I get here about a half-hour before anyone is even in. I like to have everything ready, so that when workers come in, I’m not running around.
I’m behind the desk, and I make sure that when they come in the coffee is ready, the bread and fruit are arranged pretty on a plate, and the jam and peanut butter are out. I have it so the office is warm, welcoming, and smells like coffee and scented candle. If there is not bread that is ready, I’ll defrost it so the office smells like warm bread.
I greet people as they are coming in. I give out their bus tickets and print their time sheets. I am basically like Chris (Hutton)’s right hand lady in the morning for all the little bits and pieces of dispatch. After everybody’s gone, I do all the administrative stuff like print the next week’s time sheets, organize the equipment slips and bus ticket sheets, go shopping for jam and peanut butter, and all those kinds of fun things.
What do you enjoy the most about working with EMBERS?
I like working with all the lovely people here. We have so many great people come through the door and it’s always really nice to see people come in. Maybe they’re not doing so well, maybe they’re in a bad place, and you watch them come in. At first, they are sheepish, and they don’t have any skills or whatever, and they need to borrow all their stuff. Then you watch them come in week in and week out and see them become more confident and happy. Eventually, they don’t need to borrow stuff anymore, and go up from general labour to skilled, or maybe they go somewhere else and get a full-time job, or maybe they get hired on somewhere with us. It’s really great watching these lovely progressions of people doing better at their jobs. I like it. We have some really awesome people that work here.
What is your most memorable experience working at EMBERS?
One of my favourite workers had no construction experience, and was so quiet and soft spoken — he barely said a word. He got popped on with Performance, and then you could see him getting happier and happier every time he was coming in, and getting more and more confident. Then he went from general labour up to skilled labour, and then eventually after three months the company decided to hire him. When he was going, he bought us all a little coffee card and wrote on the little slip. He wrote, “The feeling you get when getting a time sheet from Emma is the best feeling in the world”, or something really cute like that. People like that really make it worthwhile.
Where are you moving to and what will you be doing when you get there?
I am going to England, but I am going to Ireland for a month first to have my daughter’s birthday, my wedding, and Christmas with my mom because I have not seen her for a long time. Then I am going back home to London. Me and David (my boyfriend) have no idea what we are going to do for work. I’m probably going to get in touch with my previous employer there, the wedding planning company, and see if they have anything for me, or if they know anyone who is hiring.
What was involved with your decision to move?
I have lived in Vancouver for 13 years and it is time to go home, really. It’s crazy expensive here and it’s hard to make ends meet when you have kids and have no family here. I have a lot of family and old friends in England, and there are 30 hours of free daycare a week in the UK, so that is significant for me. Right now, we are on one income because any job that David gets pretty much balances out the daycare amount. So, it is working for nothing to not be with our daughter.
I miss British food, I miss British TV, I miss British everything. I wanted to go home for a long time, but I have another child who is older, so I wanted to wait until he was at least more grown up and could make his decision as to whether he wanted to come or not. He’s decided to stay with his dad here for now, and then probably in a couple years, he will come and live with us. That will be nice.
Do you have any words you would want to tell any workers before you leave?
That I will miss them all, and keep working hard, and bring your equipment back on time.
Do you have any last words about EMBERS?
I’ll miss you guys, and keep on doing what you’re doing. EMBERS is a fantastic place. It’s really great seeing people actually helping themselves, rather than just getting a handout. It’s great seeing people’s lives change because of EMBERS. It’s a very rewarding place to work.
We are thankful for Emma’s years of service at EMBERS and wish her all the best as she adjusts to life back in England. Inspired by Emma to help people with low incomes access work opportunities and become self-sufficient? Consider supporting EMBERS through making a donation.