Work Closet Confidential

Making your clothes speak of success.

Ally Champagne  In Vogue
Ally Champagne
In Vogue

Throughout the years, businesses have gone to great pains to establish dress codes for employees, especially those who aren’t very business-attire savvy. We know the ones – they are perfectly content going to work in a wrinkled suit or too-short skirt with cleavage screaming for attention.

Some dress codes are etched in stone while others leave room for personal interpretation as well as creative expression. Dress wear does make a difference in how you’re perceived, as we have seen in TV shows such as What Not to Wear.

Studies show it takes only 20 to 32 seconds to make a good or bad impression of someone, whether you are on the hot seat at a job interview or meeting with a new client. When representing a company, large or small, dressing professionally speaks volumes.

Photo courtesy of Laura Canada
Photo courtesy of Laura Canada

Fitting in
The most important rule for dressing is to wear clothes that fit. Too often we see people wearing clothing which is too small or too big. Invest in a full length mirror and let it be your best friend. When your waist band is cinched too tightly and your muffin top is crying for more room, it is time to bite the bullet and get clothing in a bigger size.

If your shirt buttons are pulling and the space between reveals your chest, it’s time for a size up or a top that will accommodate bigger curves. And finally, if your chest is exposed revealing cleavage when you are standing, take into consideration what others will see when you have to lean over.

Pant lengths do have guidelines to consider on your next shopping trip. When shopping, bringing the shoes you plan on wearing is vital since different pant lengths require different shoes. For women, wearing a ballet flat with trousers that are hemmed for your high heels will cause your pants to drag on the ground. On the same note, pants meant to be worn with flats will look ridiculous with your heels.

Skirt lengths can be a rather controversial subject. Some women still try to pull off the sexy secretary look. Unfortunately, they often end up looking less than classy. A good barometer for all of your work-related fashion choices is to take note of your colleagues’ reactions. Skirts should not be more than two inches above the knee as a general rule.  The old school rule applies here; make sure the skirt extends past your finger tips.

Dress to impress
Clothing has the ability to make you feel your best. Choosing colours and styles for your body type is essential. This means you must consider your height, weight, shape and body flaws. Learning to camouflage your flaws and play up your assets tells the world you know who you are and what works for you.

fashion-dos-and-dontsSo many people do not have a clue where to begin when they need to shop and too often make a quick decision rather than going to different stores.  To avoid this, find a store that comes with fashion consultants who can pick items quickly for you and your body type. They can also help choose great accessories to accentuate your outfit, including ties, necklaces, earrings or scarves. This will save you time and make sure you don’t waste money on clothes that were not made for you.

Every year we come across trends which are either fads or become classics. Investing in classic pieces is a great idea. You can buy a classic little black dress and 10 years down the road you will still be enjoying it. Suits are a little more difficult because the lapels and jacket lengths change. That being said, I have some great suits that still work today because they have regular-size lapels, are a great length in the jacket area and boot cut pant legs.

The message here is to evolve with your body – dress for your size and age. Wear clothes that will make you feel confident and credible. No matter what size you are, when you feel good and look good, you have the ability to focus on getting your work done.

Ally Champagne is a Winnipeg writer and fashionista.

Tapping opportunity

assiniboia-chamber-logoThe oil boom means a lucrative future in trades.

Ernie Nairn Executive Director of  the Assiniboia Chamber of Commerce
Ernie Nairn
Executive Director of
the Assiniboia Chamber of Commerce

As Canada’s aging population retires, there is a growing demand for workers with skills in a number trades and allied industries. Most high school students are currently being encouraged to go on to post-secondary institutions to pursue a university or college degree. However, in today’s world and reality, their future may be better served in the trades workforce that can provide a rewarding career and even better financial rewards than many university degrees.

A great example of this new reality, and a great opportunity for graduating students from a trades school or certificate program, is the growing oil rich Bakken region that lies below the surface in the Williston Basin of western North Dakota, eastern Montana, southeastern Saskatchewan and, to a lesser degree, in western Manitoba.

Although the oil reserves were discovered there over 50 years ago, access to these reserves only became popular recently by using a horizontal drilling process commonly called fracking. They inject sand-laden fluid at high pressure to fracture the rock below ground where the oil is trapped. The oil is squeezed out of the shale rock layers and brought to the surface.

Fracking in places such as North Dakota and Saskatchewan means a huge influx in trades jobs.
Fracking in places such as North Dakota and Saskatchewan means a huge influx in trades jobs.

Due to this new recovery process, the Bakken region is shaping up to be the largest light oil discovery in the area since 1957. It is expected to produce at least one billion barrels or more of oil a year. It is projected to become the second largest oil producing region in the United States right after Texas.

The Bakken wells currently produce, in Montana alone, about 50,000 barrels a day. North Dakota is also producing the same amount if not more. On the Canadian side, Saskatchewan is producing 4,000 barrels a day, while 8,100 barrels a day is being produced in Manitoba from about 520 wells. The Manitoba fields are centered around the town of Sinclair, 125 kilometres west of Brandon near the Saskatchewan border.

The dominant player in Manitoba is Tundra Oil & Gas Ltd., owned by James Richardson & Sons of Winnipeg. Other Manitoba operators are Rideau Petroleums Ltd., Kiwi Resources, Advantage Oil & Gas, along with Grand Banks Energy Corp., WaveForm Energy, and Magnus Energy Inc.

So, where does the opportunity lie for you?
Right now, the oil producing regions in North Dakota and Montana cannot find enough skilled trades workers to work on the drilling rigs, drive trucks and provide the many other building and hospitality services needed to support companies’ drilling wells and their workers.

The oil companies also need to build housing and other accommodation for their employees who are now staying in hotels and motels or renting rooms in private homes. Some workers are driving over 150 kilometres a day to find much needed accommodation and other services. Add the need for carpenters, plumbers, electricians and every other trades skill you can imagine, and that is where your future may lie. And the hourly rates of pay are also sky high!

At a recent Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Brian Schweitzer, former governor of Montana, said that over the next 10 years two cities the size of Brandon will have to be built from the ground up to accommodate this very exciting and rapidly growing oil industry. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity for your future. It will be there for many years to come and provide you with a bright trades career.

Ernie Nairn is the executive director of the Assiniboia Chamber of Commerce.

What will make them stay?

winnipeg-chamber-logoYouth speak out about keeping young talent in the city.

Dave Angus President and CEO of  the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce
Dave Angus
President and CEO of
the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce

Our youth are our future. However, with growing worker and skills shortages in Manitoba, giving young people a reason to stay in the province has become the next challenge for both business and government.

If we, as a city, are serious about keeping our youth, we must engage them in a conversation about what they want and give them a voice.

In 2007, a survey of business executives identified a worker shortage as the number one issue facing business. And again in 2012, the BOLD Winnipeg Business Leaders Survey cited labour availability and skills shortages as their top concern.

The answer to this issue lies with our young people. But what will it take to make youth want to stay in Winnipeg? That’s simple: just ask them.

High school students share their ideas to create a youth-oriented city on Richard Cloutier's show on CJOB radio.
High school students share their ideas to create a youth-oriented city on Richard Cloutier’s show on CJOB radio.

In March 2012, the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce invited local high schools to take part in a day-long discussion. Miles Macdonell Collegiate teacher Kara Wickstrom-Street called it an “exciting opportunity” for her class. Her students, along with almost 120 other high school students, took part in the discussion and tackled the question of how to make Manitoba a cool place to live. The following year, the class of 2012-2013 added their voice.

The students weren’t shy about sharing their ideas. Afterward, the Chamber arranged for them to speak with the mayor, the NDP caucus, CJOB listeners and Chamber members about their ideas.

The mayor even took one of their suggestions to heart after they suggested creating a youth advisory council to provide student input on issues related to civic politics.

Green issues, such as transportation, were definitely top of mind. The students talked about Winnipeg being a city that “mobilizes” its youth. They proposed a city-wide rent-and-return bike program, based on a European model. They also wanted safer bike lanes – entirely separate paths or curbed and divided stretches of road. More buses, better routes and more frequent arrivals were also discussed. They suggested a reduced bus fare to create a rider culture that would last beyond high school.

They also wanted to live in a city that provided opportunities for active teens. This included big regional recreation centres, where they could meet other young people from around the city. It also included under-18 dance halls, teen clubs and comedy-type clubs where there’d be an open mike to perform. They also talked of a Six Flags theme park, an indoor water park, an extreme sports park and bigger malls, like West Edmonton Mall.

They were also concerned about downtown and proposed increased safety through numbers – more police, cadets and Downtown Watch; more residents; more unique retail; and more places for street people to go. They got creative and suggested setting up teepees around Thunderbird House for the homeless or, at the very least, more shelters. To attract more people downtown, they questioned why there couldn’t be an urban beach.

For Portage and Main, they too had a vision – open up the street-level intersection and create a Winnipeg version of Time Square.

They also thought about creating a greater awareness of the careers that might keep them in Winnipeg. They suggested a mandatory internship program and an event where they could have a series of 15-minute meetings with employers.

The Chamber hopes to open their eyes to new career possibilities by organizing behind-the-scene tours this academic year of places such as the Manitoba Museum and AssentWorks, a fabrication and prototype workshop.

We need to do all we can to encourage young people to stay and build on what we have, to become a youth-friendly community.

Dave Angus is the president and CEO of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.

Welcome to the first issue of SMART Tab!

SmartTab_Dec13Since 1996, we have been publishing first a tabloid then a magazine to support the career aspirations of young people in Manitoba and Canada. The publication has always appeared quarterly.

Given the recent concerns about employment mismatch, we have taken the decision to move away from the glossy format to a tabloid in order to increase frequency.

SMART Tab will be published every month on the 15th of the month preceding.

We will continue to bring readers the same quality advice and information that have always populated our pages. This will track heavily in the area of job and career information: what kinds of careers are out there, where they are, what they entail, what they pay and how to get them. Every once in a while, we will throw in a quirky job or a niche career.

Working closely with the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and the Assiniboia Chamber of Commerce, we will present the employer’s point of view. What skills and people do they need? What are they looking for in an employee? Who are the best employers? What makes them so good?

Schools, colleges and universities are also on our radar: who is offering what and why and with what success in the job market?

All this will be tempered by a healthy dose of lifestyle information and advice. Just how do you go about getting a mortgage? How do you juggle a job, plus school, plus a social life and stay sane? How do you get a job in your field with no experience? What easy-to-prepare meals can you cook with limited resources?

We hope you enjoy the ride with us. We have also expanded our circulation so you can find us in more places and, if you are a subscriber, then you will get much more for your money.