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Ontario workers find their footing

Many young people take their first steps into the working environment to pursue dreams or line their pockets with extra spending money.

In Ontario, individuals can start working as soon as they turn 14. For most young people, minimum wage jobs, like food service and retail stores, provide a valuable source of income.

According to Statistics Canada, around 10 per cent of all employees in the country are minimum wage workers. Of that percentage, around 78 per cent are in Ontario.

Noé Ngamewe Fotso, a 16-year-old student works weekends and the few days he can get during the week in between school.

He wanted to have more pocket money and applied for a job at Sport Chek. He felt this job fit his interests as a basketball player. He started working at the Peterborough location but made the decision to transfer to a location closer to home.

Sport Chek, like many retail outlets, give young adults the opportunity to start earning money without too many responsibilities. Some people, like Fotso, don’t mind minimal responsibilities because school and family life take precedent over work.

“I’m definitely capable of more. It’s just like part-time stuff,” Fotso said.

According to him, there aren’t many ways his store could enhance his responsibilities, but he feels this job is perfect for him right now.

“I’d stay here. I don’t really know where else I would really enjoy. I know I couldn’t do fast food or stuff like that,” he said. “I’m also thinking about what a kid my age could get realistically, a thing like Sport Chek is ideal.”

Living expenses are rising and juggling work with education can be a daunting task that many people must confront today.

Eli Boyle, a 20-year-old fine arts major works as a sales associate at Michaels since Nov. 2022.

She started out as a seasonal employee, but the location kept her on ever since.

She says she started working here to save money on art supplies to help on her assignments. The 30 per cent discount the store offers makes it an efficient solution to art supplies draining her pockets.

One major issue with working as a student is the scheduling conflicts that arise.

“I can’t work on Wednesdays, but they keep scheduling me on Wednesdays. . . I have class all day, so I have to call in,” said Boyle.

Handling school and work can be a delicate balancing act, one that Boyle faces with a little help from her professors.

“Most of my professors are pretty understanding when you e-mail them,” she said. “But recently, I haven’t been getting the most hours, so it hasn’t been that difficult lately. But I’m starting to get more now and I’m panicking cause it’s almost the end of the semester.”

With semesters ending in April, many students are left crunching last-minute assignments until the end of the school year.

The workplace is filled with younger people like Fotso and Boyle, but some people are never too young to start working while some are never too old to stop.

Margaret Fletcher is an example.

As a resident of Oshawa the 75-year-old works at Mark’s Warehouse. She started working here five years ago for the convenient location and the opportunity to get out of the house.

“I should be retired, but I don’t want to sit at home,” she said.

Working in retail, she’s never short of meeting young people, co-workers and customers alike. She started working here five years ago for the people she works with.

She says the youngest person she works with is between 17 or 18.

“They’re all great,” said Fletcher.

Every day, people take their first step into the workplace, and for many reasons.