Michael Agema has seen hospitality jobs go unfilled many times throughout his career. While teaching at Georgian College in the hospitality, hotel and resort operations program, he thought of a disruptive solution to the labour woes impacting the industry he has been part of for decades. He recalls posting serving and bartending jobs for a wedding on the college job board, and then learning that no one applied. “It’s like fishing — I cast my line and I hope to catch somebody,” he said. “Inevitably, nothing would be caught.” Either people weren’t finding the opportunities, or there were things preventing them from applying or getting to the jobs.
He went to the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre at Georgian College with an idea that would help solve those problems, and AGEMA Work was created. The platform directly connects workers with available shifts posted by local hospitality employers. “I don’t think there is a labour shortage; I think there is a labour connection problem,” Agema said. “There are people who want to work, but they’re challenged by transportation, they’re challenged by location, they’re challenged by all these other factors that are outside their control, and so what we try to do is eliminate the barriers to entry.”
Agema also received help from DMZ Innisfil, a tech incubator created through a partnership between the Town of Innisfil and Ryerson University. “Having that availability of speaking to experts — in operations, finance, legal, scaling the company — was a huge benefit,” he said.
Today, the AGEMA Work platform helps connect 15 resorts and hotels with workers. “When people need additional help, they call us and we provide them help to get them through their staffing shortages,” Agema said. He said while they are in the gig economy, the workers are paid as employees of AGEMA Work, including vacation pay, CPP and EI, while enjoying flexible work schedules. The AGEMA Work platform is popular with international students attending Georgian, Agema said.
“I invested my last three years at Georgian in international education, and I saw the plight and struggles of some international students trying to find part-time work,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of our workforce are international students who now are gaining unbelievable soft-skill experience. It works for them.”The platform works for employers, too.
“During the summertime, we had so much demand for what we were doing we couldn’t keep up,” Agema said. “Even right now in November, when things are shoulder season, all of our teams are still working full time because we move them from one place to another without having to reapply to another job.”AGEMA Work has plans to expand to other regions of Ontario in the future.
For more information about AGEMA Work, visit https://agema.work.
Article authored by Shane MacDonald, Innisfil Journal.