Commissionaires Help Ex-Soldiers Find Work; Purpose

Organization says the job is perfect for people looking for something lower key

Michael Staples, The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)

Ronald Theriault has found the perfect union.

The former soldier is a member of the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires and loving every minute of it.

"It gives me something to do and I can still be productive," the 34-year veteran said. "It's a good opportunity. Most of my ex-bosses are members of the corps."

Theriault's remarks come as veterans across Canada struggle to find work after leaving the Forces.

A study released by Veterans Affairs Canada in January 2011, called A Survey on Transition to Civilian Life: Report on Regular Force Veterans, revealed the unemployment rate for former soldiers was eight per cent. More recent reports suggest it could be as high as 12 per cent.

Established in 1925, the commissionaires is the largest private-sector employer of veterans – providing jobs for 20,000 people from coast to coast.

Former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are also on the organization's payroll.

The commissionaires are involved in a wide range of security services, including professional guarding, monitoring and surveillance, threat risk assessment, bylaw enforcement, identification and fingerprinting services, and security training.

Theriault, who works at the National Research Council building on the campus of the University of New Brunswick, said a job as a commissionaire represents a great opportunity for ex-soldiers looking for employment.

"I'd recommend it to my former co-workers," said Theriault, 52, now in his fifth year.

He said veterans in this area are aware of the opportunity the commissionaires represents.

"The guy who got me this job here at the NRC was my ex-boss," he said. "We were ex-regular force, both of us. I was getting out of the reserve and he told me about the opportunity to work, so I applied and I got the job."

Peter Kramers, CEO of the organization's New Brunswick-Prince Edward Island division, said a job as a commissionaire is tailor-made for those at the end of their normal period of service, are 50 to 55 years of age, and are looking for something lower key.

"We offer an environment where we have people who come from the same cultural backgrounds, who understand the meaning of service, who understand what people have gone through in their military lives," Kramers said. "We help transition through – going from the military to civilian life."

Some people remain with the organization until they are as old 80.

Kramers said if you come from a high-tech background in the military and are in mid-career after the 20 year cycle, you are probably looking for something with a bit more challenge.

Bob Lockhart of Fredericton, a member of the board of directors for the New Brunswick-Prince Edward Island division, said the organization is well positioned to meet the changes that occur in the workplace.

"It's not always a full-time job," he said. "Not all of them (veterans) are able to work full-time. We supply everything – the uniforms and the equipment necessary, the training."

New Maryland resident Kent Carswell, a retired major with the Canadian Forces, said he would recommend the profession in a heartbeat.

"I know of a number who have gone into that – into the security agency that works in the airport. Combat arms soldiers are particularly well suited to that."

Carswell said the commissionaires and the opportunity it represents is well known throughout the veteran community.

"For those who would like to continue on a career path the same as in the Forces, they could certainly consider the Corps of Commissionaires," Carswell said.

Simon Forsyth, a media relations officer, with Veterans Affairs Canada, said the department is aware of employment problems faced by veterans when the leave the service.

He said the new veterans charter is designed to assist releasing Canadian Forces members and their families with the support they need to make the transition from military to civilian life.

"The charter includes a full package of benefits and services that can be tailored to meet the individual needs of each Veteran and his or her family, including rehabilitation, monthly income to replace lost wages while in rehabilitation, practical help to find a job and much, much more," Forsythe said.

Based on a voluntary survey, as of April, Veterans Affairs Canada also employs more than 100 veterans (as well as 90 employees with a family member who has served in the Canadian Forces).

"Their experience is invaluable," he said.