CORNER BROOK Steve Smith knows what it means to be a reservist and about the sacrifices that come along with the job.
The sergeant with the Second Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment also knows how being a reservist can affect you in the civilian world.
Smith has been with the reserves since 1998, and what started as a part-time job has turned into a full-time career. He’s currently on contract with the battalion looking after recruiting.
Smith spoke at a business luncheon hosted by the Canadian Forces Liaison Council at the Glynmill Inn in Corner Brook on Tuesday.
The council promotes the primary reserve force by highlighting the benefits of reserve force training and experience to the civilian workplace. The council encourages civilian employers and educational institutions to grant reservists time off on a voluntary basis, without penalty, to allow them to participate in their military activities, duties and training.
Smith has trained and been deployed with the reserves twice since joining, once to Bosnia in 2003 and most recently to Afghanistan in 2010.
When Smith left on his first deployment he had to take time off from a job in Alberta. He thought his job would still be there when he got back, but when he returned the job was gone.
As a recruiter he now encourages members to be open with employers about the need for time off for training and deployments.
He advises employers to let their workers know whether or not their positions will be held.
“And encourage them to go, because they’re not taking time off for a holiday,” said Smith.
He’s had members who have had to use their annual leave to be able to take part in training including two from Ontario who had to give up the equivalent of four years vacation to take part in a deployment.
He said the reserves is open to working with employers to help ease the burden of training.
“For the most part when it’s training here, after their courses we’re very flexible on their time commitment with us.”
Smith said the reserves will provide employers with training schedules and encourage them to provide work schedules.
“So they know when we are training and they can work their schedule around us.”
Smith said employers who hire reservists and who give them the opportunity to take part in training exercises, courses and deployments without fear of losing their jobs or missing out on their studies stand to gain a lot.
“They’ll get a better person back,” said Smith.
He said reservists develop good time management skills, learn how to take corrective criticism, learn social management and recognize workplace ethics and the values and virtues of a job. They’re also very dedicated people.
Bill Mahoney, chair of the Canadian Forces Liaison Council Newfoundland and Labrador, hopes that by hearing of the experiences of reservists that employers will become more open to supporting members by giving them time off work without penalty to train and take part in deployments.
He said across the country, particularly in Atlantic Canada and in Newfoundland and Labrador, the council is seeing a heightened awareness and employers are more giving.
And, he said, there’s no question that the operation in Afghanistan has certainly contributed to that.
“There’s a heightened awareness about the contribution that the reserves make to the military and the military makes for the country.”
He said in Newfoundland virtually everybody knows somebody in the military.
“There’s always a connection whether it’s family or friends. So we enjoy a very high level of support for our military here and for our reservists.”
Attending Tuesday’s luncheon were two employers with reservists on their staff.
“And that really reinforces our message and validates our message,” said Mahoney. “That the training that the reservists receive is directly transferable to the workplace and we heard that confirmed here today which again is very gratifying.
He said the council understands that it does require an accommodation from the employer.
“So we try to help the employer understand the value and the quality of the training, so that the employer gets something back as well. They get a better trained, more experienced employee.”
Those gathered also heard a bit about the council’s ExecuTrek program. This program takes employers out to observe reservists training and involved in their reserve activities.
“So that gives them a first-hand view of the value and the quality of the training for the activity that the reservists receive.”
Bill Boland, operations manager with The Western Star, spoke to those gathered about an ExecuTrek he participated in this past September when he sailed on the HMCS Montreal from Gaspe, Que. to Corner Brook.