Employment program leads student to a career he never could have imagined

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Spring 2014
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Brad Tronson

Brad Tronson found new career options with the help of OKIB and Okanagan College's pre-employment program.

Brad Tronson knows the value of having support when you are trying to make decisions about your career. He had worked in construction for 10 years when an injury on the job changed everything. Forced out of the career he loved, Brad ended up working in security to pay the bills but his heart wasn't in it. Fortunately, he bumped into an old friend who told him about a program that could help. Even better, it was being offered right in his own community — Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB).

As Brad discovered, OKIB's pre-employment program helps community members take the first steps towards a life-long career. Designed and delivered in partnership between OKIB and Okanagan College, this training program caters to the specific needs of the community. With the support of funding provided by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) and the Province of British Columbia, the program was recently expanded to include essential skills training and Adult Basic Education. The program now includes a five-month curriculum that equips students with practical skills and industry-specific certification that will make them more employable.

Like many of the students in the program, Brad faced several barriers to finding long-term employment. He didn't have a computer, Internet access or the skills to research career options and education requirements. Moreover, without a driver's license, he couldn't drive to classes or interviews outside the reserve. The pre-employment program helped him assess his skills, learn how to explore the job market and even obtain his driver's license.

By the end of the program, Brad was able to choose a career path that inspired him and he registered for the carpentry and joinery program at the Okanagan College Kelowna campus. "I've built houses for 10 years and I'm good at working with wood. I figured joinery is right up my alley and it's less physically demanding."

Brad recently won a bursary for Aboriginals in Trades and is on track to complete the college program in March and plans to pursue a Red Seal certificate in carpentry soon. However, another career change may be in store. He was recently approached by the Dean of Carpentry to help recruit Aboriginal youths to train for working in the trades. He will have to complete another college program to be eligible but looks forward to deciding on which career path to take – career options that were not on the horizon six months ago.

"I'm glad I found the program," says Brad. "Teresa and Jennifer really helped me find a career I can get excited about. I like what I'm studying now and look forward seeing where it will take me."