CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


Offering a foot in the door

By Nick Candiotto
Toronto Sun

For Wasim Mirza, the goal was very simple. "I was out of a job," the 24-year-old says. "So I wanted -- no, I needed -- to get a job where I could utilize my skills, but it was very, very hard."

Wasim's employment counsellor puts it more succinctly.

"He had just recently lost his job and had used up all of his savings," says Alvin Guthrie, employment counsellor at Toronto's Gateway Cafe. "He was on the verge of losing his place."

At the recommendation of a friend, Mirza visited the Gateway Cafe, looking to reverse his fortune.

"At the time, he needed some clothing," Guthrie says. "We made sure his housing situation was secure and took care of the immediate needs before plunging into the job search."

Leery of the workplace environment after a negative employment experience, Mirza's self-esteem and confidence were restored through counselling. He was prepared for an intensive job search -- with some much-needed support.

The first step in the search was completed when he qualified for the Skills Link subsidy -- a program in which the government pays 60% of an employee's wages. The second step was to secure a position -- and again Mirza had some help.

"When he came back from his first interview, he felt better about himself and about getting a job," Guthrie says. "He had a great feeling about the employer."

It turns out the feeling was mutual.

"We needed to hire somebody full time, but because we are a non-profit organization, we could not afford to," says Brendon Noronha, operations manager at the North York Harvest Food Bank. "When I first met Wasim, I knew we had a perfect fit. He's a good young man."

Mirza began his job doing general work almost immediately and has been one of Noronha's best employees ever since.

"We want to make sure when he leaves here, he's a better person and a better worker," Noronha says. "Wasim is already ahead of that -- he's both."

To find out more about the Gateway Cafe, visit or call 416-466-7489. To identify your neighbourhood youth employment centre for hiring made easy at no cost to you, visit

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