After 20 years of factory work, Denise Andrews had resigned herself to thinking she would never find employment outside the walls of a manufacturing plant.
She didn’t really mind the job – she had worked her way up, from picker and packer to shipper and ultimately to supervisor.
“I didn’t really feel like I was fulfilling my life’s dream,” said the Brantford resident. “But it was OK.” Then, the plant closed. And Denise, who started working there when she was 21, was now 40 and unsure what to do. Representatives from CareerLink Community Employment Centre came into the plant to discuss the future with soon-to-be-displaced employees.
From them Denise learned about Second Career, a program launched by the Ontario Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities to pay for training or education to help people find a better job.
Denise, who quit high school at age 16, had already returned to the classroom in 1996 when she received her Ontario High School Equivalency through the Independent Learning Centre.
Using Second Career funding, Denise entered the social service worker program at Mohawk College in April 2012, graduating with honours last April. “It was a life-changing experience,” she said. “I thought I was always just going to work in a factory. You get into that rut. It’s a job and it pays the bills and you don’t really worry about your personal happiness.”
After graduation, Denise returned to CareerLink to get assistance with securing employment. She is now working three days a week in the mental health and addictions field for an agency in Brantford. She is also enrolled part time at Laurier Brantford in the bachelor of social work degree program.
“Denise is a positive example of a full-time working mother who secured her GED while working and then moved on to post-secondary education to develop the theoretical and practical knowledge to work in her chosen career field,” said Fiona Weir of CareerLink who nominated Denise as one of this year’s Education WORKS Champions.“Denise is continuing her education at a university level to broaden her career opportunities over the long term.”
Denise said it sometimes takes the maturity brought on by life experience to really know what you want and how to get it.
“I’ve grown so much. It’s proof that anybody can do what they want if they set their mind to it.”
Photo by Brian Thompson, Brantford Expositor