Adrian Theroux was just 16 years old when he began working at Paradise Pet Centre in St. Albert. Seventeen years later, he’s now the general manager and said he can’t imagine working anywhere else.
“I think that says a lot about our company, to have someone at that age come in. It was my first job and I just really enjoyed the people I was working with and the positive atmosphere and environment,” Theroux said.
On Tuesday at the city’s annual Business Breakfast, Paradise Pet Centre was the recipient of an Asset Champion Award for most Youth-Friendly Employer. The award for most youth-friendly business went to Success 2000 Study Centres.
With 12 to 14 staff under 20 years of age working at the store, Theroux said he prefers to hire people who have been customers at the store and who will better know what’s expected of them.
“Customer service is a huge part of our business and if someone experiences that as a customer for years and years, then they know what to do when they get into the workforce.”
One of those long-time customers-turned-employees is Robyn Sayer, 17, who has worked at the store since April but has been visiting since she was an infant.
“It’s definitely a very friendly atmosphere. The manager, Adrian, is really nice and because he’s a little closer to our age … it’s really easy to get along with him,” she said.
Sayer said the store is very accommodating when it comes to scheduling around other commitments, such as exams.
“There is a lot of leeway. If I had an exam the next day and I really needed something, he’s really understanding that way,” said Sayer.
Theroux said it’s important to teach customer service skills to employees at an early age so they can develop good working habits later on.
“They’re our future and they need to, at a young age, learn business and learn customer service and public relations and those kind of things so that when they actually get into the work force as a career, they’ve had that experience already,” he said.
The Asset Champion Awards are just one way the City of St. Albert is supporting community initiatives that reflect the 40 Developmental Assets, a group of building blocks that, according to a large body of research, contribute to health, wellbeing and personal success in young people.
Some of the assets include peaceful conflict resolution, responsibility, service to others and sense of purpose.
“The more building blocks that kids have, the most likely they are to succeed, the less likely they are to become involved in high risk-taking behaviour and more likely to do well,” said Linda Knoblauch, community development co-ordinator with Family & Community Support Services in St. Albert.
She said this is the third year FCSS, along with representatives from the RCMP and both the Protestant and Catholic School boards have been promoting the asset development philosophy in St. Albert. This year, said Knoblauch, the focus was on businesses in the community.
“There is a role in everyone in the community to help build assets in youth, not just families and schools,” she said.
For the past 15 years, Success 2000 Study Centres, which was recognized as being the most youth-friendly business on Tuesday, has been providing tutoring services for students of all ages.
“We have a safe place for kids to come after school to get help with homework or help preparing for tests,” said Paul Kinkaide, who purchased the business in 1993 with his wife Christie, an early childhood educator.
“We also help kids develop homework routines and study skills,” said Kinkaide, who has an elementary teaching degree.
Rather than offer structured programs, Kinkaide said they cater programs to the individual needs of the 1,000 or so kids they see every year.
“I love helping the kids. That’s why I do this job. There are a lot of different things I could do to make money but this has been very rewarding for myself, far beyond what we make on a business side,” said Kinkaide.