Tailor-made for a Student

Fashion design student and Nelson local Daisy Morrison weaves wonders at the Stitch Lab’s after-school sewing club.

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Wage subsidy helps Nelson Stitch Lab find perfect fit for the job

It could be a fantastical, polka-dotted stuffed “animal.” It could be a shimmering, voluminous gown. If a child has a sewing project idea, the Nelson Stitch Lab’s after-school sewing club is the place they can make it a reality.

These days, it’s Daisy Morrison who helps the kids out. “Whatever they are drawn to, they can make. And it’s my job to help them along with that and figure out the best way to do it. There’s always something quite exciting going on.”

Morrison finished her second year of fashion design at Ryerson University, which she did online from her hometown of Nelson due to the pandemic. This enabled her to commit to this part-time job, a position subsidized by the Trust’s School Works Wage Subsidy program. Administered by College of the Rockies, the program helps Basin businesses, non-profits and more hire full-time students on a part-time basis during the school year.

Youth Access

The Trust offers several wage subsidy programs to help the region maintain a diverse and resilient economy supported by strong businesses, a trained workforce and sufficient jobs. The programs also help youth access a range of opportunities so they can learn skills and engage in their communities. From 2016 to 2020, the Trust supported the creation of 1,000 student jobs and 33 Level 1 apprentice jobs.

Along with Sarah Albertson, Deborah Achleitner co-owns the Nelson Stitch Lab. “We think of it as a sewing hub,” Achleitner says. The Baker Street store sells sewing essentials like fabric and patterns. Adults can take classes, too, or create their projects in the “sewing lounge,” where they can rent sewing machines and tools by the hour.

It’s the kids’ club, though—welcoming four groups of six children a week, ages 7 and up—that required a university student’s touch. “We had a very full program with nobody able to do it,” Achleitner says, referring to fall 2020. The classes were after school, two hours per day, four days a week. “It was the type of hours that suited a student perfectly.” In addition, “You have to think on your feet, to have six different projects on the go and many different personalities—it takes a special person.”

Giving Back

As a bonus, Morrison already knew the club intimately, as she was one of its first students when Achleitner began it in 2013. Morrison says, “It’s been super nice to come back and give back to the kids what Deborah was able to give to me.”

In addition to providing a bit of income during the school year, the position has bolstered  Morrison’s fashion-career ambitions. “I feel like my sewing has improved a lot, just by having to think on the fly with the kids as they’re coming up with sketches or figuring out how to make patterns,” she says. “It’s been a really good exercise for me in terms of my own sewing.”

Having Morrison oversee the club has been vital for the store’s economic health as well. Sewing has risen in popularity during the pandemic. However, the crises’ overall effect on the Nelson Stitch Lab has been negative, as fewer travellers are coming to town and popping into the store. “We do have a loyal following of local sewers and shoppers,” Achleitner says, “but they can only buy so much.”

The kids’ club, however, has remained strong. The space it uses in the basement is large, and the owners installed a new ventilation system to boost safety. “We needed the income from the kids’ classes to supplement what was lost in traffic to the store.”

An Essential Role

Happily, Morrison has been a huge draw. “The kids adore Daisy,” Achleitner says. “She brings a lot and they really love the program. We get such positive feedback.”

Some of the children have already signed up for 2021 summer camps—and requested Morrison. So that Morrison can continue working with them, Achleitner has now secured funds from the Trust’s Summer Works Wage Subsidy program, which provides small businesses with a wage subsidy to hire full-time high school or post-secondary students during the summer.

Achleitner is thankful for all the Trust support. First, it has motivated them to fill an essential role with a student; this can feel like “a wee bit of a risk,” she says, compared to hiring someone with more experience. “It allows one to take a little leap of faith.”

Second, it is helping them fill that role—and more-than-meet customer needs—while cutting down on employee costs. Financially, “It’s going to make a huge difference,” Achleitner says. “It really is going to help us. End of story.”

School Works Wage Subsidy

The School Works Program provides wage subsidies to employers to help them hire full-time students on part-time basis throughout the school year.

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