Restaurant workers helping with staffing shortages at Kitchener nursing home

When the latest COVID-19 measures by the province shutdown indoor dining, one local restaurant group took an unusual step to keep its workers employed -- they offered them jobs at nursing homes across the province.

Corrine Wigle used to be a server and one of the hosts at Graffiti Market in Kitchener. She's one of about 120 employees who, after being temporarily laid off from Ignite Group Restaurants, is being offered a position at The Village at University Gates, a retirement home run by Schlegel Village in Waterloo.

"I'm just really excited to get this opportunity," Wigle said. "Getting to work around people, making those connections."

She'll be helping residents with day-to-day tasks.

"Helping them eat, brushing their hair, screener questions," said Wigle. "If people need help, I'm there to help. I was sick and tired of sitting at home doing nothing so of course I jumped at the opportunity."

Ryan Lloyd-Craig, the co-owner of Ignite Group, calls the partnership a win-win situation. Not only are they keeping staff members employed, but they're also helping to fill staffing shortages at Schlegel Village nursing homes.

"As we look to lay off employees through all these lockdown and restrictions, their demand for employees continues to increase," said Lloyd-Craig.

Of the 120 who were offered a position, around 30 hospitality workers have showed interest in the arrangement. Some of them are set to start working at Schlegel Village as early as next week.

"We wanted to make sure that we took care of our employees first, and find them jobs wherever we could," said Lloyd-Craig. "They've got fixed expenses, they need to know when their next paycheque will be and it's tough right now. We see it, we understand why people want to leave the industry."

Some of the roles workers will be taking on include cooking, housekeeping and COVID-19 screening.

"Those are very important jobs," said Kristian Partington, the Director of Communications for Schlegel Village. "I think what's interesting with those jobs, with the right training, it could be something a lot of people can do."

The Schlegel Village operates 19 long-term care and retirement homes across the province. More than 440 of their team members are currently off work due to COVID-19.

"The pandemic has put massive strain on the entire system as a whole," said Partington.

Training will be provided at the nursing homes, and they are urging anyone to can help out, to apply.

"It's not really just about bringing a meal out to somebody," he said. "It's about a conversation and the interactions you have with people."