Innovative Calgary dealer pioneers high school student internships


Mitch Wile is the president of The Cedar Shop, a Sexton-affiliated contractor store in Calgary. He’s spent 51 years in the home improvement retail industry. With plans to retire next year, Wile decided to pay back the industry that has been so good to him. That’s why he provides mentoring for two high school students every year in an innovative internship program.

“We hear it all the time in our industry—businesses struggling to develop succession plans,” Wile says. “Retirement, hiring, and retention can all be scary words to hear or deal with. There is a solution to these problems and it’s the upcoming generations. There are passionate, eager-to-learn, and talented individuals out there. Like many of us, these young people need support, belief, and encouragement to reach their potential.”

Wile’s role now, as he sees it, includes offering that support. “As a leader in the business approaching the end of my career, I can be that person who helps to educate the next ones coming in.”

Last year, The Cedar Shop’s persistence paid off when the store became a part of the Calgary Board of Education Internship program. This was implemented in conjunction with the Alberta Government Careers program. Two Calgary high school students worked at the store on select mornings over 10 weeks to learn the ins and outs of the lumber business, “while also bringing their own ideas to the table,” Wile adds.

The students told Wile about the importance of TikTok to reach their age cohort. “I’d never even heard of TikTok!” Wile admits. The students were put in charge of managing The Cedar Shop’s TikTok channel. “The incredible success of our program with our two interns and the support of companies such as Metrie has convinced the government to finance this program for the next three years. I wish I had something like this when I was in high school.”

Last year, Wile presented the internship program at Sexton Group’s Alberta regional meetings. Six more Sexton members started looking to hire students. Two more Calgary students are all ready to begin the program at The Cedar Shop starting next month.