From left: Dale Dusang

Graduates add new skills to workplace experience

In early January Brenda Strutt applied for the job of front area supervisor at the Chalet Bakery. She was declined.

Three weeks ago she went back, armed with Food Safe, First Aid, WHMIS and enhanced computer skills. This time she got the job.

The certificates came through the Experience Works program offered by the B.C. government through Okanagan College. There, Strutt and seven other adults between the ages of 55 and 64 took a variety of courses designed to enhance their skills and help them get back in the work force if needed.

The program was set up for unemployed workers looking for new skills to improve their employability.

They took computer courses, Food Safe certification, WHMIS certification, First Aid training and employability workshops.

“It was perfect timing,” said Strutt following a lunch held to mark the end of the program. “This program helped me incredibly in terms of gaining confidence.”

She wasn’t alone in her assessment; the seven other graduates all expressed their gratitude towards what they took out of the program.

“I’m really thankful for this program because I’m at a point where I’m trying to figure out where to go for the next part of my life for work,” said Patty Prescott during lunch. “When you get a little older, I was thinking my options were smaller than they really are.”

One of the benefits of the program is that participants received a living allowance while taking part – a bonus that enabled them to focus on the full-time program.

“I really enjoyed this and I’d be lying if I said the money wasn’t also very helpful,” said Dale Dusang, 57. “Nobody else brought this up so I’ll say it: it was nice to get paid to go to school. That was a good deal.”

Dusang was philosophical on his final day, talking about the friends he made in the course and the learning he did.

“It’s a bad day if you don’t learn something. You should always be learning,” he said.

Gerrie Alsemgeest said she would use her new skills to volunteer with special needs kids. Bob Kramer said it opened up “new pathways” in his “old, foggy brain.”

Suzy Thomson and Maureen Cox were the other two graduates.

“I’m really appreciative to have been given the opportunity to be given a training course,” said Thomson.

They all received their certificates and enjoyed some lasagna and Caesar salad before posing for the obligatory photo.

“It made me realize that, yes, I’m over 50, but I don’t feel over 50 as far as the world goes,” said Strutt. “I feel young and and I want to be vibrant, I want to be useful, be able to offer things to my community.

“I think my voice finally connected with my backbone.”

A new session of the program is starting in April and Okanagan College is looking for applications. Call Okanagan College at 250-837-4235 or visit the college for more information.