April 12, 2014 – 3:50pm


Tyler Sutherland stands in front of the Corridor Co-op grocery store in Milford. (FRANCIS CAMPBELL / Truro Bureau)


It’s an age-old conundrum.

You can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job.

Tyler Sutherland, 21, of Shubenacadie found an answer to the riddle through a program called Opportunities Fund, which offers a wage subsidy for hiring people with disabilities and gives the employer the ability to train a new employee who might need extra time to learn new skills required to do the job.

“It’s been a great experience,” Sutherland, who has a learning disability, said recently of working at the Corridor Co-op grocery store in Milford.

“It’s been a good job. I now have job experience to add to my resume and a good reference.”

Before being hired by Co-op manager Mike Wray, Sutherland had been frustrated by his job search. He sat at home for weeks and believes he would still be sitting there without the assistance of the fund.

Sutherland approached Wray in September 2013 about the possibility of volunteering at the Co-op store and told him about the funding opportunities that were available for employers hiring a new employee who might require some extra time and training.

Wray was put in touch with a career practitioner at the Futureworx Job Search Centre in Elmsdale who was working with Sutherland at the time. Futureworx, which is funded jointly through a federal-provincial agreement under the direction of Employment Nova Scotia, was able to process the paperwork required for the wage subsidy through the Employment Solutions program.

The subsidy lasted several months and gave Sutherland the work experience he might not have otherwise obtained. He says he would recommend the program to others struggling to find work, especially those living with a disability.

Wray said he has noticed a huge transformation in Sutherland since he started working. His confidence has increased to the point where he requires only minimal supervision, he said. Sutherland has became very versatile and now works in various departments of the store.

The work experience helped Sutherland in “determining his strengths,” Wray said.

A program like Opportunities Funds benefits both employer and employee, he said as he urged other employers to get involved and not to be scared off by the “disability” label.

Sutherland has been able to learn the skills required to work as a grocery clerk and he fit in very well with all of his staff, Wray said.

Tim Tucker, manager of the Futureworx centre in Elmsdale, said he can point to many success stories involving partnerships like the one between Sutherland, Futureworx, Employment Solutions, Opportunities Fund and the Co-op.

“Thanks to managers like Mike Wray and options like Opportunities Fund, Tyler has been able to not only gain the work experience he needs but has gained much more than that in the way of confidence and life skills,” Tucker said.

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