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Algonquin grad works with Grow Studios to help break barriers to employment

Although it’s only been a year since Algonquin heritage carpentry grad Gillian Cummings became the program coordinator for Grow Studios Woodshop, the space is already filled with a variety of supplies and dedicated employees.

Located on the second level of the City Centre complex in Unit 220, Grow Studios Woodshop serves as a space of fine wood making, ranging from tabletops to coasters to plant stands.

“The people that we work with here really love the work that they do,” said Cummings. “We’re that middle ground of (providing) soft and hard skills training.”

Cummings said that the shop opens doors for people who have barriers to employment, which then helps people to “re-enter the workforce.” It also serves as a space for people to learn skills in carpentry as well as connect with people within the community.

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From left to right: Steve Hambleton, Paul Morrow, Dave Murray and program coordinator, Gillian Cummings at Grow Studios.

The program offers two lines of products: bigger projects such as custom furniture and then smaller items such as cutting boards and growth charts for smaller craft markets.

Cummings graduated from the heritage carpentry program in 2018 from the Perth campus and said that she enjoyed the different aspects which the program had to offer. Before attending Algonquin College, she completed two degrees in Women’s Studies and Media, as well as Information and Technoculture from Western University in London, Ontario.

However, she was aiming for something with a more hands-on skill set.

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Algonquin grad, Gillian Cummings, working on sanding down the edges of the coin holders for the military company, Canex.

“I started to explore carpentry and worked on a carpentry [crew] first to see if I liked it,” said Cummings. “I found out about the Algonquin program and decided it was a good fit.”

Although she took a few months off after graduation, she kept herself busy working on her parents’ family cabin. Over the summer of 2018, she was notified that there was a position open at Grow Studios and decided it was something she was interested in.

Over the year that the company has grown, Cummings says that they have quite a few exciting projects in the works. “We are currently doing a couple of different things for the community,” she said, adding that they’re also currently creating furniture for a daycare in Kanata.

“Right now (we’re) working on an order from CANEX, making coin holders for them, which is the bigger order for us.”

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The many coin holders that Grow Studios is creating for Canex.

Mark Reinisch, who has been with the company for almost two years, says that he enjoys the many aspects of his job, such as smoothing down rough edges on wood pieces before the staining process. There are also other tools in place that are used for sanding such as the table saw and palm sander.

“I’m sanding off basically extra stuff that’s not supposed to be there,” said Reinisch, adding that he didn’t have any carpentry experience prior to this job. “So, we have to take time, stay in control and get the job done.”

The staining process is completed by John Lauder, who has worked with the company for eight months. He sits in a swivel chair and gives each piece a base coat before giving it a final coat of stain.

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John Lauder, who has worked with Grow Studios for eight months, is applying oil on the coin holders.

Cummings says that her employees are involved in every step of the process including when they have to make big purchases as well as having the opportunity to make newer connections in the community.

She hopes that she is able to reach out to more people in the future. “We’ve been trying to be more active on social media and be present and reach out to more people in the community.”

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