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EMBERS Staffing Solutions ‘gambles’ on life change

This article was originally published on July 31st, 2015 on the ENP Canada website. It has been cross-posted with permission from the author Michelle Strutzenberger, Newsroom Chair, Axiom News.

EMBERS Staffing Solutions works with many people on whom no other company will “take a gamble.”

Nearly seven years after launching, it has many stories of how taking that gamble is creating a deep, powerful shift in people’s lives.

Paul Lennox

Take Paul Lennox. After living in a tent in Stanley Park for 10 years where he battled mental health issues and addictions, Paul is on a new journey that includes working with EMBERS as a tower crane operator. Paul told his story at the annual EMBERS Golf Tournament, a fundraising event, this past week.


“He was bawling, everybody in the room was crying,” founder and executive director Marcia Nozick recalls. “That’s the impact that having a job can have.”


A social enterprise, EMBERS Staffing Solutions is essentially an answer to the desperate need for a certain kind of job in Vancouver – temporary and/or transitional jobs for people who face all kinds of barriers to “regular” employment, including criminal records, addictions and mental health issues.

At the heart of the work that Marcia and her team do is a belief in people, in giving them a second – and maybe a third and fourth chance.

“We believe in people. We don’t give up on people. Somehow, when you treat them like that, they blossom,” Marcia says.

Today, EMBERS Staffing Solutions has hit a period of unprecedented growth.

“We’re so busy and helping so many people,” Marcia says. “Last week I signed 170 paycheques for workers that face barriers to employment. This weekend alone we’re providing jobs to over 100 people for a big event.”

Marica Nozick

This growth is especially notable given the social enterprise’s long, slow start. Marcia worked “behind the scenes” for about five years before her idea came to full fruition. (Her journey is storied in a recently published case study on EMBERS Staffing Solutions. More on that below).

EMBERS Staffing Solutions now looks forward to the possibility of opening up a second office in another area of Vancouver, in order to help people all over the Lower Mainland.

“As long as we continue to grow and expand our resources to help even more people in the coming year, we’re overjoyed,” Marcia says.

EMBERS Staffing Solutions was one of four social enterprises to receive a 2013 Trico Charitable Foundation Social EnterPrize Award, which included the opportunity to have a case study conducted by an academic team.

The Sauder Centre for Social Innovation & Impact Investing of The University of British Columbia has produced an engaging study that tells the story of Embers Staffing Solutions’ journey to date. The study is sprinkled with many key insights that readers can draw out and consider for their own experiences.

“As I told the story (to) the (Sauder research) team, they came back with more questions,” Marcia says. “It was a process of going deeper and deeper.”

She also notes the study focused on a number of issues — such as the role of the board — which she hadn’t thought much about until she started talking with the research team. “(The team) acted as a third party looking in, which allowed us to rethink what our strengths and weaknesses are,” Marcia says.

To read the case study, click here.

To learn more about EMBERS Staffing Solutions, click here.

Writer: Michelle Strutzenberger

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