Nova Scotia

Halifax's first job fair for LGBT jobseekers draws eager candidates

The job fair had such a good turnout that organizers say they want to make it an annual event.

25 employers and dozens of jobseekers connected Wednesday in an LGBT-friendly space

Rebecca MacEachern (left) poses with other staff at the Out and Equal job fair. (Shaina Luck)

The city's first-ever job fair geared toward the LGBT community took place Wednesday in Halifax, with such a good turnout that organizers say they want to make it an annual event. 

"We're quite overwhelmed by the success," said Rebecca MacEachern, an employment support practitioner with the YMCA and the organizer of the Out and Equal Job Fair. 

MacEachern said initially she wanted to bring in 10 employers, but ended up with more than 20. In the first hour of the fair, at least 45 job seekers checked out the booths in the YMCA's Gottingen Street gymnasium. 

Strong demand from jobseekers

MacEachern works with jobseekers who have different kinds of barriers to employment, and said she wanted to put on the fair due to demand from the LGBT community. 

"In the last couple of years, I myself have seen more and more people from the community, especially people who are transgender or transitioning," she said.

"I know of one client who was let go in the middle of a transition, and other clients who are finding it very difficult to approach employers." 

Employers seek 'untapped' job market

MacEachern said the YMCA wanted to provide a safe place for jobseekers to connect with employers who are already inclusive or who want to become more inclusive. 

"I think that a lot of employers realize now that the LGBTQ community could be an untapped market of employees," she said. 

One of the employers present at the fair was Admiral Insurance, which is seeking dozens of people to help it grow. 

Brandon Croken, a senior care adviser with Admiral Insurance and a member of the LGBT community, said his team's mission at the fair was to attract "as many people as we can." 

Admiral Insurance co-workers chat at the Out and Equal Job Fair. From left to right: Kody Wilson, Ky Greyson, Brandon Croken. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

"I thought it was a great opportunity to show the community that there are many employers out there that help support and really grow with the LGBT community," he said. "Myself, I'm very comfortable with Admiral, I'm very open, and they support me in any way possible." 

Admiral is making changes to become a more inclusive workplace, said Croken, such as changing over multiple bathrooms to gender-neutral spaces. The company has also created an LGBT committee to listen to employees' opinions and make them comfortable at work.

Croken said he feels like his colleagues try hard to have a friendly, collegial workplace. 

"For a lot of people, they don't feel comfortable actually coming out, and they don't feel like they have the support. Whereas with Admiral, I'm more than happy to express who I am, to be my full self, and not feel like I'm going to be judged at all."

Finding the right match

Alexandria Coates came to the job fair to scope out potential employers. She has a degree in IT and a certificate in accounting, and would be open to jobs in either field. 

"I came to feel out the job market ... what kind of skills they're looking for, what kind of employees. Their thoughts and feelings on diversity. You get a feeling for their hiring process," she said. 

Coates is a transgender woman who began transitioning this year with a supportive employer but that position ended. She began her job search four weeks ago. 

Alexandria Coates visited the job fair to check out employers and to seek a position in IT or accounting. (CBC)

"There's been a lot more employers here than I thought there'd be. Everybody's been super outgoing and positive. It's just sort of blown me away just how great everybody here has been," she said.  

Coates spent some time talking to various employers at the fair in search of the right fit. 

"I mean, it's just a vibe you get from them. It's hard to explain. It's not even any specific thing," she said.

"Obviously if they have policies and that kind of stuff, it says a lot. If they've taken the time to craft out policy, I think that's usually pretty important." 

LGBT advocacy and support organizations such as The Youth Project and Phoenix House were also present to give out information.

The Youth Group signed up all of the employers at the fair for a presentation on best practices for the workplace. 

The employers who participated in the fair included:

  • Ikea
  • Ocean View Continuing Care Centre
  • Eastlink
  • The Nook
  • Dartmouth Sportsplex​
  • Talent Works 
  • Dalhousie
  • Public Service Commission 
  • Shannex Inc. 
  • Admiral Insurance
  • Pete's Frootique
  • UPS
  • O'Regan's
  • RCMP
  • Canada Post
  • CBI Health
  • Prince George/Cambridge Suites
  • Aramark Canada
  • Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Veterans Affairs
  • Closing the Gap
  • Parts for Trucks 

About the Author

Shaina Luck

Reporter

Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca