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Employee of Calgary social enterprise lists joys of experience, heaps praise on manager

This article was originally published on September 29, 2015 on the ENP Canada website. It has been cross-posted with permission from the author Michelle Strutzenberger, Newsroom Chair, Axiom News.

There may be no more valued praise than that which comes from an employee. When interviewed about his work experience with an award-winning Calgary social enterprise, Michael Jamieson highlights his manager as a key player in making the experience a positive one.

Michael is one of 30 people working with the Vecova Calgary Airport Baggage Cart Service, a social enterprise operated by Vecova Centre for Disability Services and Research.

As a non-profit, Vecova exists to create a society where persons with disabilities are integral and valued members.

In answer to questions about his experience with the airport baggage cart social enterprise, Michael refers appreciatively to manager Stan Thankachen a number of times.

“I am happy to have a team and to have a boss who cares about me,” he says. “Stan is great.”

Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Vecova Calgary Airport Baggage Cart Service ensures that complementary baggage carts are strategically located to meet the demands of over 15.2 million departing and arriving travellers each year.

With more than 3,300 carts to manage, the Vecova baggage cart retrievers have developed an intricate system for collecting the carts from all over the airport terminals and parking lots placing them when and where they are needed most.

Launched in 1995, the service has received awards from the International Airport Traveller’s Association (ATA) for ranking No. 1 in baggage cart availability in North America. The ATA survey has been replaced by the Airport Service Quality survey by the Airports Council International, and the Calgary Airport continues to rank No. 1 and No. 2 in cart availability. “We also placed first in the world for baggage cart availability, compared to hundreds of other airports of varying size,” Vecova communications manager Kelsey Hough says.

Michael Jamieson at work with the Vecova Calgary Airport Baggage Cart Service.

Vecova’s Airport Baggage Cart Service is a competitive business contract with a social purpose. The Calgary Airport Authority has twice awarded the contract to Vecova through a competitive request-for-proposal process.

Besides his manager and team, Michael, who has worked with Vecova for 15 years, says he enjoys the opportunity to work outside, meet new people and operate the walkie-talkie that is part of his job.

“I am happy here. This is a great place to work because people listen to me,” he adds.

“Many people are there to help. It is nice to work with the same people for so long.”

Looking ahead, Michael says he’s excited to see the airport expansion project take place, and to have a part in that. “It’s an exciting time, with new carts, new lockers and new offices,” he says.

The Vecova Airport Baggage Cart Service is one of five social enterprises operated by Vecova.

“Being an employer of over 75 people in our inclusive and integrated social enterprise workforces provides us deep insight and understanding of the many employment benefits, and ways a non-profit organization can strengthen a community by encouraging and creating this type of social investment,” CEO Joan Lee says.

“There is a growing eagerness for non-profit and for-profit businesses to come together and create sustainable and resilient ventures,” she adds.

“I hope Vecova can be on the forefront of forming these connections and being a powerful example of the very worthwhile returns that can be achieved by combining social and economic investment.”

Michael’s story is especially noteworthy at this time given that Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi recently proclaimed October Disability Employment Awareness Month. To learn more, click here.

To learn more about Vecova, click here.

To learn more about social enterprise in Alberta, please check out Enterprising Non-Profits Alberta.

Related Story: What’s energizing this long-time Vecova Bottle Depot social enterprise worker?

This article is part of an ENP-CA newsroom series on the experiences of front-line employees in employment social enterprises. An introductory story to the series can be found here.

Writer: Michelle Strutzenberger

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