Ashley Phillips found her dream job at Spa Pure Vernon with the help of Tier Support Services.

Ashley Phillips found her dream job at Spa Pure Vernon with the help of Tier Support Services.

TIER offers help into the workplace

The TIER Support Services program helps adults with developmental disabilities to find employment in a wide variety of fields

Ashley Phillips has a delightful smile, a lively sense of humour and a strong work ethic. Now, thanks to the TIER Support Services program, she’s working at the job she always dreamed of.

Phillips, 27, had always been active in the community, including in the school lunch program at Vernon and District Association for Community Living Venture Training. Then she got involved with Community Living BC which referred her to TIER Support Services Employment Support program last fall.

Kathryn Willardson of the TIER Vernon office talked with Phillips about what kind of work she would like to do and her skills and experience.

“It was her dream to work in a salon and she has good people skills and is very reliable,” said Willardson. “Then I talked to local salon owners and found a match with the needs of Stephanie Rooks, Spa Pure Vernon owner. I worked with Ashley one-on-one in her practicum and helped her develop ways for her to remember all her duties. She’s done very well.”

Phillips has a developmental delay which includes dysphraxia, meaning she sometimes has challenges in articulating speech. Her job as spa floater includes laundry, cleaning, and making and serving coffee. Since she is a visual learner, she has a chart with pictures as reminders of what has to be done.

Her family had tried to help Phillips get a job before but was discouraged that some employers would not consider someone who takes a longer training period.

“I heard about the success TIER had attained in the community and I knew Ashley had a lot to offer if she could get the support and groundwork. She is very reliable and you can always count on her,” said her mother, Wendy Phillips.

“She has been wanting to work for a long time and this is such a good fit. She loves her work and she’s always happy.”

Willardson noted that people with physical or developmental delays may take longer to train or need some accommodations but they stay with jobs longer, giving employers the advantage of lower turnover.

“I like working. I like my chatty coworkers,” said Ashley Phillips.

Her mother said that the family is very happy with her success.

“Ashley likes fashion and doing her nails so this is the perfect workplace for her. She is so excited that she will soon finish her practicum and start getting a pay cheque. Some of her friends have jobs and now she feels on par. The support for her from TIER and Stephanie has been wonderful,” she said. “Ashley looks forward to going to her job and having a place she loves to be at. The other programs she has been in have prepared her for this job. It has a lot of meaning for her.

“Now she has a sense of purpose. She is more than ready to be a productive citizen and it has raised her self-esteem and confidence. She’s always smiling.”

Spa Pure owner Stephanie Rooks is pleased with how Ashley has fitted into the salon.

“I was excited to be involved in this program. It was presented to me as employment that would be valuable to the person and that she was able to offer the skills I needed,” said Rooks, who has a background in social services.

“It was a great fit from the first day and was cool to see Ashley grow as a person. Her personality fits our team and I hope she’s here for a long time. I think this is a great program and employers should consider it as welcome addition to their businesses. I think businesses should take part in their communities and this is a way to be part of the community and support its people. I look forward to growing with the program and seeing what else the future brings.”

The TIER Vernon office is presently working with 11 clients ages 19 to 40s with a variety of backgrounds and skills.

“We work with the clients to find what they want to do and match their skills to the job opportunities with training and on-going support and re-training if required,” said Willardson.

Ashley Phillips has a lot to smile about. She has a job she loves, she’s active in Special Olympics and she’s going to Europe with her sister in the summer.

Doug Woollard, interim CEO, Community Living BC, said, “The work going on in Vernon to promote supported employment for the people we serve is something we are seeing more of across the province — particularly as it relates to youth transitioning from high school.  In response to this increasing interest in employment services, Community Living BC has increased our investment in employment services and introduced a comprehensive three year jobs plan that is focused on duplicating this local success in other communities across the province.

“Over the last 25 years, a lot of work has taken place in B.C. to help increase employment for adults with developmental disabilities but previously there was little coordination.  Our three-year jobs plan we introduced last March is the first time the entire sector has worked together to map out a strategy to increase employment. I am pleased at the success of this effort in the first year, and the progress already made through this collaboration.”

For more information about TIER Employment Support and Community Support programs, contact Willardson at 250-307-8437 or or see


Vernon Morning Star