Transforming Futures pilot program prepares students for new career paths

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Amanda Wallace, Claire Oswald and Baldeep Dillon (front row, from left to right) are three Red River College students who take their academic careers very seriously.

All three are punctual, motivated self-starters who know how to prioritize in order to meet the demands of their course loads. They’re also immersed in all aspects of student life, from student council and advisory committees to work experience programs.

Claire and Baldeep want to work in the provincial government, while Amanda has her eyes on a career at City Hall. Like many others in RRC’s Transforming Futures program — a pilot project launched in 2014 — all three have blossomed into exemplary students, thanks to the support of their instructors and peers.

A first of its kind program in Manitoba, Transforming Futures helps students with intellectual disabilities and other significant barriers prepare for and deal with the realities of post-secondary life. The first stage of the program allows students to explore career options based on their interests and strengths. Students are introduced to College-level studies, as well as personal management, job searching, interviewing and essential workplace skills.

“During high school your life was basically structured for you,” says Claire. “When you enter college, it’s a lot more independent, a lot more responsibility’s on your head. You’re responsible for you.”

“In high school, the teachers were more like, ‘Where are you? What are you doing?’ Here you’re more responsible for yourself. You have to show up, be on time for every class and you have to do your work,” adds Amanda.

One of the most valuable lessons for Baldeep has been time management: “You can’t be hanging out with your friends on weekdays anymore, you have to go study, you have to read all the textbooks and the class notes, you have to study for quizzes [and] exams, get all the assignments done. You have to prioritize your time because you’re going for your post-secondary education now, the education you need to pass the program and get a career.”

After successfully completing Stage 1 and earning a certificate in Academic and Career Essential Skills (ACES), students may choose to exit the program, or pursue an RRC certificate in either the Administrative Assistant or Culinary Arts program. Amanda, Baldeep and Claire all completed the first stage, which included a six-week work exploration, and attained their ACES certificates. All three have decided to pursue RRC’s Administrative Assistant certificate.

As Program Coordinator Paul Brady (above, back row) explains, “In this program, we help them with what the College requires of them, we’re not allowed to modify. We can adapt programs — we can give them accommodations to meet those needs, but that’s it. And these students were up for the challenge.”

Transforming Futures instructor Hal Lavery says the social rewards of inclusion have had a huge impact on the students’ self-confidence. “As a result, even their body language has changed, they’re more confident and social,” he says. The students are accepted and respected by their peers, both in the Transforming Futures program and in RRC’s regular full-time programs.

Claire is especially cognizant of the way the program has impacted the quality of her life: “We’ve been able to order our life in a more independent fashion than before when we started this, so it’s given us a chance to be independent and to get the work done on our own time.”

“Independence is important because you’re able to do things on your own; you don’t need people telling you what to do. So if you’re independent, then that means you’re responsible, and when you’re responsible, you’re self-sufficient. And with those three things, then your life is good.”

Learn more about RRC’s Transforming Futures program.

Profile by Kristin Marand (Creative Communications, 2004)