Working at Dolly’s Home Hardware through her school years helped Jenna Milne decide which path to take for her career. Then it helped put her on that path.
Milne, a 2016 Kwalikum Secondary School graduate, was awarded this year a $2,000 scholarship by the Building Supply Industry Association of B.C., one of just five granted by BSIA each year. Her application, sponsored by Dolly’s Home Hardware, eased her transition to Vancouver Island University, where she is now studying science in preparation to go on to nursing school.
“Before I started working here I was kind of shy, and this job helped me become more confident in myself and less shy,” said Milne. “I feel it set me on the path I wanted to go on. Seeing I can help people and put a smile on their face makes me feel really good.”
Dolly’s Home Hardware has been hiring student employees for years, said manager Doreen Patterson, who has been with the business for 22 years. She said a group of students will typically be hired for part-time work while in Grade 9, with the idea they can work part-time — and possibly full-time in the summers — throughout their high school years.
“Kids need training and they need an opportunity to work,” said Patterson. “It takes about a year to train a student — OK, it takes about a year to train an adult, too — and they’re awesome employees.”
Patterson has worked all of her 22 years with Bryan Virgin, who co-owns the business with his wife Liz. She said the students initially hired were members of Bryan’s extended family and other employees.
That hiring principle has expanded, sometimes through recommendations from school teachers or families of students who have previously worked at Home Hardware, to include more students like Milne, who had no connection to the store.
The young student remembers having a friend of the family bringing her a job application from Dolly’s in her Grade 9 year, which she filled out and took back to the store.
“I dropped it off, and Liz (Virgin) and I talked for a while, then she said, ‘See you on Wednesday,’” said Milne. “I was nervous, because I’m in Grade 9 and it’s my first job. But everyone was so nice; I think it helps being in a small town.”
Milne worked one weekday after school, and one day on the weekend through the school year, which Patterson said is the typical student schedule. Students may pick up more hours during their summer break from school, and Milne said she worked essentially full-time this past summer to generate funds for school.
“I think having students is a big part of what they do,” Milne said.
“It certainly adds more flexibility to our workforce,” Patterson added. “They’re able to work one day a week and one weekend, and they’re able to help in the summer so the rest of us can have time off.”
Last fall, as Milne began putting together scholarship applications during her final year of secondary school, Liz Virgin brought her the BSIA scholarship application. Milne said she had to fill out the application and include a short essay describing herself and explaining why she needed the funds.
She said the process took about five weeks.
“When they told me I got it, I had kind of forgotten about it,” Milne said with a laugh. “The first thing I did was text Liz and tell her thank you.”