British Columbia

No work experience? No problem: Small-town bakery teaches people with employment barriers

A small-town bakery is celebrating 10 years of serving fresh bread, hot coffee and providing a learning space for people with employment barriers who are looking to improve their skills and get some work experience. 

Skeena Bakery celebrates a decade in business

The business side of the bakery offers up breads, sweets, and savoury treats. (Skeena Bakery/Facebook)

A small-town bakery is celebrating 10 years of serving fresh bread, hot coffee and providing a learning space for people with employment barriers who are looking to improve their skills and get some work experience. 

The Skeena Bakery in New Hazelton — a small town with a population of less than 600 in northwestern B.C. — combines a business on one side and a non-profit society with a social mission on the other. 

Braunwyn Henwood, manager of the bakery, said the idea came from what the founding members saw happening in the community.  

"There were a lot of people in our community, mainly youth, who were either graduating or leaving high school and becoming young adults but having no skills to put on a resumé," she said. 

The bakery employs several full-time regular staff to run the business; working alongside them are people with a variety of disabilities or employment barriers, including developmental or social issues, no high school diploma, or illiteracy. 

Braunwyn Henwood, who uses a wheelchair, has worked at the bakery since it started. She became manager in 2011. (Skeena Bakery/Facebook )

The bakery partners with the Skeena Supported Employment Society and works with Community Living B.C. to bring in trainees — and their support workers — to learn on the job. 

Henwood recalled one young man who came in a few years ago who had not finished high school. 

"When he first came, he said, 'I'll just sweep the floors' and so he stayed in the back," she told CBC's Radio West. 

"Gradually, he started doing a little bit more and a little bit more until he could run the whole front counter."

Now, she said, the man works full-time at another restaurant. 

Skeena Bakery is celebrating its 10th anniversary this Saturday. (Skeena Bakery/Facebook)

The program aims to teach employable skills in a safe space, while building confidence in its students. 

"One of our underlying big mottos here is that this is a very positive place and so if you break something or you do something wrong, nobody's going to yell at you or get mad," Henwood said. 

"That sort of approach just helps to really foster confidence in people."

Skeena Bakery is celebrating their first decade with a barbecue party over the weekend. 

Handmade breads, hot coffee, and an important cause: a small-town bakery is celebrating ten years of providing a learning space for people with disabilities to gain employable skills. 6:30

With files from Radio West