Jamie Hiltz says the Columbia Wetlands are one of her main reasons for deciding to stay on in the Columbia Valley as a full-time resident after arriving her as a one-month Mobilize participant.

Jamie Hiltz says the Columbia Wetlands are one of her main reasons for deciding to stay on in the Columbia Valley as a full-time resident after arriving her as a one-month Mobilize participant.

Mobilize attracts new residents to valley

A 24-year-old Haligonian has made the Columbia Valley home after completing a work experience as a housekeeper at Copper Point Resort.

A 24-year-old Haligonian has made the Columbia Valley home after completing a work experience as a housekeeper at Copper Point Resort.

Jaime Hiltz participated in Mobilize — The Great Canadian Work Experience before resigning from the program and starting a life in Invermere with a six-month lease and the option to extend her rental agreement.

She is eager to explore Western Canada and has plans to travel throughout B.C.

“I didn’t know what I was missing,” said Hiltz, adding that she now works as a bartender at Black Forest during the evenings and will be working at Kootenay Coffee Works during the daytime. “There are so many work opportunities here, it’s unreal.”

Mobilize — The Great Canadian Work Experience is a national placement program that connects people between the ages of 18 and 30 with month-long employment opportunities in three provinces. However, Hiltz opted to stay in the Columbia Valley after completing her first work placement.

“I’ve learned a lot,” said Hiltz. “I had no idea that coming out west was going to be this easy because most workplaces have accommodation for staff. It was so foreign to me. I didn’t think it would be this easy to get around and see (the sights) … now I know different parts of Canada and I learned some new work skills.”

According to Susan Clovechok, the executive director of the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce (CVCC), the national work placement program holds merit for the Columbia Valley business community as it helps recruit and retain staff.

“I received a phone call from Mobilize early in 2015 and, recognizing that their program could be a viable solution for some of our members who have difficulty finding employees, the Chamber organized a luncheon and invited a representative from Mobilize to speak to our membership,” she said. “From there, a number of members took advantage of the opportunity and have been able to see some success from the program. Mobilize was also willing to adapt their program for smaller employers who were willing to work together — it was their flexibility to work with all sizes of businesses that made their offering more compelling.

She’s happy that a Mobilize participant has fallen in love with the surrounding area just as she did during a trip to the valley 14 years ago.

“I felt a very special connection with the place and the decision to move here seems a natural one for us,” said Clovechok. “I believe that having residents who choose to live here and create a life for themselves here is such a healthy way to build a community. It is a very different than moving for a career opportunity — I moved to Montreal for a career opportunity, but I never felt the passion nor had the commitment to Montreal than I do for the Columbia Valley, so I look forward to see what Jamie will create for herself here in the Columbia Valley.”

The Mobilize opportunity to travel and work with accommodation included as part of the package offers employment to young Canadians in fields such as cooking, bartending, serving, housekeeping, administration and helping out in kitchens.

“I’m a hairdresser back home by trade and barbering was taking over and I wasn’t making as much money,” said Hiltz, noting that career advancement was limited in Nova Scotia. “(Through Mobilize), I had the opportunity to get jobs anywhere and everywhere, and everything is so nice. It’s prettier out here.”

She made the decision to extend her time in the Columbia Valley after visiting the wetlands, Lussier Hot Springs and the Hoodoos.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life, but I had never left Nova Scotia… and I didn’t know what I was missing before coming here,” said Hiltz. “The outdoors are different here, that’s why I’m staying. I want to see it all in the summer and I want to see the wildlife here in the summer.”

She added that, in her opinion, the program is better suited to people between the ages of 18 and 20 because of the perks and challenges of living in staff accommodation.

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