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BCBusiness extends our congratulations to Chemistry Consulting Group Inc. (GT Hiring Solutions), winner of the Best Companies to Work for in B.C. 2007 (Top Companies with Fewer than 100 employees category).

When Kirsten Moline left the non-profit sector for a job at GT Hiring Solutions last month, she was concerned that the privately run job-placement service might focus more on the bottom line than the well-being of its clients. But the 33-year-old employment-program coordinator has since discovered it’s possible for a company to be for-profit and for-people at the same time. “The compassion here is just as strong as any non-profit I’ve worked for, so my assumptions were pretty much blown out of the water,” she says. It’s 7:45 a.m. and Moline is helping guide a group of students through their orientation tour for the Hard Hats construction program at the Interurban Campus of Victoria’s Camosun College. Some are well-groomed and wide awake; others are grimy and dishevelled. Two latecomers straggle in carrying sleeping bags after apparently spending the night outdoors. Of the 19 people enrolled in the class, eight are homeless. The 10-week course, aimed at helping income-assistance and EI recipients find construction work, is one of a range of employment programs run by GT Hiring Solutions and its parent company, Chemistry Consulting Group. Moline says the job requires a range of counselling, social work and advocacy skills to help students with transportation, housing, daycare and other issues that might prevent them from completing the course. The private-sector model, she notes, offers greater flexibility to help clients overcome those barriers. “The biggest thing I’ve noticed is how many more supports we can offer,” she says. GT Hiring Solutions started in the Victoria office of Grant Thornton LLP, under the management of partners Christine Stoneman, Frank Bouree and Charles Shier. When Grant Thornton opted out of the job-placement business two years ago, Stoneman, Bouree and Shier left to form Chemistry Consulting, incorporating GT Hiring Solutions under their umbrella. With the Campbell government’s shift toward the private delivery of public programs, the timing couldn’t have been better. In July 2006, Chemistry Consulting was awarded a four-year contract to deliver services under the B.C. Employment Program, with an option to renew for two more years. Stoneman is reluctant to pinpoint the contract’s value, saying revenue depends on the number of clients who find jobs. GT Hiring Solutions accounts for “60 to 70 per cent” of Chemistry’s revenue, she says. Six Vancouver Island offices – Victoria, Duncan, Nanaimo, Parksville, Courtenay and Campbell River – cater to the general population, while operations in Burnaby, Surrey and North Vancouver provide job resources and programs for recent immigrants. In addition to general business consulting, Chemistry is working with the B.C. hotel and restaurant industry in a bid to import Filipino workers to help ease the chronic shortage of cooks and chambermaids. It’s a small but thriving company, with half the 38 staff located in Victoria and the regional offices typically employing three to four people. Christie Kiers, who runs the Duncan office, says the model, coupled with management’s willingness to respond to staff feedback, provides the flexibility needed to deal effectively with issues as they arise. “They’re very flexible as far as staff needs go, very open to suggestions,” Kiers says. Kiers says the real attraction is the satisfaction of seeing people who are down and out drag themselves up and turn their lives around. “You have your rough days in this business,” she says. “But when a client tells you they found that dream job or they found a place to live… that really makes my day.” Back to Best Companies to Work for in B.C.