Friday, November 21, 2008

Track3 Volunteer Window

Autumn is always a critical time of year for Ontario Track3. The number of volunteers who sign up within a small window of November and December will determine the number of children we can invite into the program for the coming winter.

There are many factors that influence the size of our volunteer base during any given year. A cold snap in October can make the difference in drawing 15 volunteers from the Ski & Travel Show…that’s eight children on hill. Snow in late November may prompt 20 more volunteers…that translates to another 10 children on the slopes. A chair lift running in early December may motivate another 10 volunteers, resulting in an additional five children on hill. The waiting list is long and the weather does not always cooperate. There are never enough volunteers to invite every child into the programs and it can be truly heartbreaking.

The weather isn’t the only factor affecting the size of our volunteer base. While colder weather helps bring the upcoming ski season to mind for potential volunteers, our current volunteers and supporters are our most valuable resource to get people thinking about Track3. The vast majority of our volunteers come from referrals. It’s the stories we tell that make the biggest difference in what people are thinking. When each of us tells a story about our experience with Track3 kids, we create a snow storm of excitement and enthusiasm. Then, volunteers come through the window!

If there were ever a time to email everyone you know, now is that time…spread your story and invite some friends. If you have a bulletin board in the office, Track3 can give you posters to help you spread the word. If you belong to a health club, rowing club, badminton club, sailing club, golf club, bridge club, or any club, for that matter, now is the time to request a newsletter insert or to speak for a few minutes at a meeting. You’ll be a big hit at holiday cocktail parties if you change the topic from depressing stock market tales to heartwarming stories about the Track3 students. Please take a few minutes to get in touch with old friends, family and colleagues. These next few weeks represent our only window to encourage and receive volunteers for the coming season.

I love the bright, clear blue sky of a winter morning and the squeak of frozen snow under my ski boots. It won’t be long before I hear the familiar call, “The bus is here!”, as Track3 instructors, assistants and staff shuffle out to the parking lot, no coats and hands in pockets, to greet the kids from the Track3 student bus. One by one, each child will arrive in the doorway at the top of the steep bus stairs and while scanning the crowd for a familiar face, a smile will erupt. Each face, every smile, the sun, the snow…it just might be another best day of a child’s life. I know it will be mine.

That’s my story for today. I know you have a thousand of your own. Don’t be shy! Your stories matter.

To all the families with kids, returning and new to Track3, welcome! We are looking forward to seeing you soon for a wonderful season of fun and excitement.

To all the volunteers, returning and new, thank you for your support, for your time and for telling your stories. We have another great season ahead of us.

I hope the holiday season greets you with a new pair of warm ski mitts, a friend that joins as a volunteer and plenty of snow to make it all worthwhile.

See you on the slopes.

Steve Jones
Ontario Track3 Association for Disabled Skiers

Monday, October 13, 2008

Great recruiters make a great commitment

Not all staffing companies are the same and not all recruiters are the same either. When selecting a staffing company or recruiter, look beyond the agency’s brochure and ask a few questions about credentials.
Ask whether your staffing agency is a member of ACSESS. Every member of the Association of Canadian Search, Employment and Staffing Services has pledged to uphold the industry’s code of ethics and standards. This code addresses everything from disclosure of information to adherence to laws and respect of individuals.

Also look for the initials “CPC” behind a recruiter’s name. The Certified Personnel Consultant is the only certification for professionals working within the Canadian staffing industry. A recruiter with the “CPC” credentials has made a commitment to the industry and to professional performance.

CPC exams address important topics such as the legal aspects of staffing services, human rights, privacy laws, employment standards, employment equity, health and safety, selection techniques, and industry ethics.

As employers, we take great care in verifying the credentials of each candidate we consider so why wouldn’t we take equal care in verifying the credentials of the recruiters who make the referrals. Hire with confidence. Look for the ACSESS logo and the initials “CPC”.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ontario Track 3 Association for Disabled Skiers

Another fabulous winter is only a few short months away and our office staff are working full “Steam Whistle” ahead on preparations for our 36th season of helping kids and teens to experience the excitement, freedom and personal development through Ontario Track 3.

Our dedicated Track 3 office staff of Henk Engles, Kathy Saunders, Amy Hopkins have been recently augmented with the temporary specialty skills of Dana Robertson, Jennifer Hill and Diane Guiney to help with our various projects. Thanks to everyone, we are on track with volunteer recruitment, student enrolments and preparations for our annual fall fund raiser to be held at the historic Steam Whistle Brewery on Friday November 14th. The ski season might only be 3 or 4 months out of each year but the business of Track 3 spans all 13 months. Well, it feels like there is never enough time to do it all!

The seasonal nature of Track 3 usually means that volunteers, students and donors tend to delay winter plans until the first signs of snow. Too Late! If you (and everyone you know) offer early notification (Now!) then we can make important commitments to more students for this winter. There are dozens of children on our waiting list whose lives will permanently change for the better if we can provide the necessary volunteer support. If you are a volunteer (or want to be) then please take a few moments to contact the office and even more importantly, to invite some friends to join in on the greatest experience of a lifetime.

Great News! The Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion, Communities in Action Fund has provided us with an interim subsidy to help reimburse travel expenses to instructors who participate in our “Week Day School Ski Day Program”. Last year we assisted over 120 students on School Ski Trips. More students will benefit from the Track 3 experience this year however our growth and success may be limited by the availability of week day volunteer instructors and assistants. This is a wonderful opportunity for people with a flexible schedule. For the first time, we will also offer a special Level 1 Instructor certification session at Centennial Park for any new School Ski Day instructors who cannot attend the standard January Level 1 instructor training in Collingwood. Do you know any retired skiers, work-from-home mom skiers or self employed snow boarders? Tell a friend about the travel reimbursement, convenient training and the new week day opportunity to hit the slopes a few more times this year.

Funding, donations and event revenue are critical to our ability to continually meet the needs of Track 3 kids. One of our current initiatives is to join forces with existing corporate events to add our Track 3 flavour to corporate ski days, parties and functions. Does your company have a social, client or employee appreciation ski day? How about a barbecue or art show? There’s a good chance that we can help arrange auction items, offer sit-ski rides and contribute volunteer organizers. Consider turning your corporate event into a socially responsible event. Contact the Track-3 office to find out more.

Special thanks are owed to Gord Hines, Gillian Morrison, Jeff MacInnis, Allen Palmiere and Bruce Creighton, who have all served for many years as directors on the Track 3 Board. Thank you for your time, commitment, wisdom and guidance. I also wish to welcome new board members Dawn Lunan, David Thompson, Philip Brooks and Jens Mayer.

The business of Track 3 might seem simple on the surface however the orchestration of fund raising, government grants, facilities management, volunteer recruitment, technology, etc can be a challenge. Fortunately, we have been blessed with talented volunteers, board members and staff. It only takes a brief moment to reflect upon the experiences we have all had with the kids to stay focused on our task. One skill progression, one new friend, or one smile makes all the effort worth while.

We are looking forward to another fabulous Track 3 season. Thanks for everything you do and enjoy.

Steve Jones
Ontario Track-3 Ski Association

Quote for Today ...."Everyone has the power of greatness. Not for fame, but greatness. Because greatness is determined by service." Martin Luther King

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ontario Consultations on Temporary Help

This morning, I had the pleasure (sort of) of being interviewed by Andy Barrie on CBC FM Radio. Recently, FM 99.1 Metro Morning has been on a tear to disparage the credibility of the staffing industry. It's obvious that Mr Barrie has been told outrages stories about "human trafficking" and he has been lead to believe that this is some sort of norm. He is using his radio show to right the alleged injustices and do the good thing.

It's unfortunate but I believe that this sort of ratings ploy does more harm than good. I take tremendous pride in the meaningful differences that we (my company and my industry) make in the lives of people. It’s important work and people are almost always much better off because of what we do for them.

Whether we are helping a professional confidentially change careers or helping a Gen-Y into a first job, people benefit from the services we provide. We never charge a fee to a candidate. We always try to make a match that will move a person to a better place in their life.
If you listen to the attached Podcast, you’ll hear from Andy’s language and tone that he really wanted to hear a nasty story about exploitation and skulduggery. I have none. I only have warm heartfelt stories about removing barriers for recent immigrants and helping moms return to work. I have more stories about summer students, relocating professionals, etc, etc, etc.

My objective in the interview was to de-escalate the rhetoric. (That’s polite for stop the lies and exaggerations.) If you have been listening to the intensity of Andy Barrie's one sided position on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, then you’ll probably agree that my interview was somewhat successful in taking the edge off. Although, it’s hard to win the game when you have your defense on the field.

I heard a story once, that at the end of a press conference, Henry Kissinger asked the press gallery..... “Are there any more questions that you think will suit my answers?” Listen to the interview. You’ll know what I mean.

Have a great day!

Friday, August 15, 2008

ACSESS Membership

All indicators point to challenging times ahead for the staffing industry and, therefore, challenging times for the National Industry Association too. ACSESS (Association of Canadian Search, Employment and Staffing Services) is the only national association representing the industry.

Demographic experts remind us about skill shortages and a growing future dilemma. Social policy experts point out systemic flaws in our country’s immigration policies. The media and advocates for the under-employed are demanding more legislation to help solve the woes of our society’s most vulnerable workers. Economists and statisticians are quick to point out recent job losses. There is no shortage of important issues for the "experts" to wade in on.

Of course, we don’t need experts outside of our industry to tell us about these issues – we deal with these realities every day! WE are the employment and staffing experts. WE are the country’s human resource utility. WE have our finger on the pulse of the labour market. For example, most of us knew six months ago what Statistics Canada is just starting to identify today.

ACSESS is currently engaged in a more diverse list of complex issues than ever. This means that membership in our industry association is also more important than ever. If you are an ACSESS member, then perhaps I am ‘preaching to the converted’ but keep in mind that the real benefit comes from participation in ACSESS initiatives. Are you engaged?

One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes is, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Unlike the weather, ACSESS offers our membership the opportunity to participate and influence our climate and our future.

Participation can simply mean involvement in a local chapter event, or being a member of a national advisory committee. It can be the pursuit of your CPC designation or your attendance at a national conference (don’t miss Montreal in May of 2009). You can participate in a provincial safety group or reinforce the principles of the ACSESS Code of Ethics within your business. Our effectiveness as an organization and your personal benefit is directly related to your degree of involvement. Are you involved?

Media relations and public relations are of growing concern for ACSESS. The sad reality is that the media likes bad news stories (even if they are not always accurate). We are working to proactively spread the truth about our industry, our services and about the contributions we make to people, business and the Canadian economy. We are making progress, but if you see or hear media coverage (good or bad) that intrigues you then please enquire with ACSESS so that real experts can provide insights.

Membership in any industry association is important. It is a sign of commitment and dedication to your profession. Remember, an industry association is only as good as the members make it. Over 80% of the staffing services provided in Canada are delivered by an ACSESS member. That's a tremendous participation rate and that's why ACSESS is doing such a great job and is so well positioned to help through some tough times that may be ahead.

Steve Jones
National President

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ontario Track 3 Association for Disabled Children

It’s amazing how everyday people can transform into everyday superheroes when they put their hearts into something. This past winter I had the pleasure of experiencing hundreds of superheroes with the Ontario Track3 Ski Association for the Disabled.

The first group of superheroes includes the kids. Ranging in age 6 to 19 years old, the Track3 children and teens live their everyday lives with the type of challenges that most of us can’t imagine. Paraplegia, amputations, Cerebral Palsy, Down, Visual Impairment, Autism... but like all superheroes, the obstacles go unnoticed as their superpowers define their greatness. The super-kids all share a few of the most common superhero powers like determination, fearlessness and happiness. They are infectious and influence others to also rise up and achieve extraordinary things.

There is nothing subtle about the expression of the Track3 kid’s superpowers. You can usually tell by an ear-to-ear smile, eyes that well up with pride and loud noises that sound like “yeeee-hooooo” or “Sweeeeet”. One of the most common side-effects is typically a bear hug or a high five.

The other group of superheroes is volunteers. Of course, they don’t know or think they are superheroes. That’s what makes them so special. Track3 volunteers ride the buses, check the equipment, dress kids warm, teach the skills, keep kids safe, and inspire the kids to discover their own superpowers within. The volunteers also share a few common powers like passion, commitment and selflessness. Making a difference in the life of a child is an addictive social virus. Infection (or affection) can occur from a single Track3 experience.

One volunteer worthy of special recognition is Tim Fryer. Tim committed his Saturdays to photograph the superheroes at Craigleith Ski Club and then he built a few photo videos that truly capture the essence of Track3, the kids and the volunteers. Take a look. I think you’ll see what I mean.

Thank you Tim! Thanks Volunteers, and especially thanks to the kids!
The Craigleith Idol Video is from a special fund raising and awareness event hosted annually at Craigleith Ski Club. Justine Hines performed as a celebrity guest and judge. Thank you Justin.
The Believe Video is the essence Track 3 spirit. Thank you Craigleith Ski Club.