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2016 Champion Paul Harbinson

Brantford man embarked on Second Career

Paul Harbinson laughs when he says his family calls him a professional student.

But it's true that his interesting life has been punctuated by periods of education that have taken him in several directions.

And it all began with a professional telling him his learning disability would prevent him from even finishing high school.

Born in England, Paul, 45, moved to Canada with his missionary parents when he was 10 years old. With the help of tutors, he did indeed graduate from a high school in Cambridge, Ont.

Website Upload - Paul HarbinsonPaul's first foray into post-secondary education was at an American college where he studied television production.

In 2009, Paul returned to Emmanuel Bible College in Kitchener to get a degree in religious education -- counselling.

Unable to find work in his field, Paul, who lives in Brantford, found himself working for a call centre in order to support his family.

Last year, with financial help through the Second Career program, an Ontario government initiative that helps laid-off workers get back on the job with funding for tuition and other expenses so they can return to school, Paul competed the Social Service Worker diploma program at Fanshawe College.

"Paul sought out opportunities and researched his options, always with his end goal in mind," said Tara Kendall, a consultant at St. Leonard's Community Services' Brant Employment Centre, who nominated Paul as an Education WORKS Champion. "He spent many an hour mapping out and strategizing to make the most of his educational experiences."

Paul now has a part-time job as an access care facilitator at Brant Family and Children's Services.

Social work has been a longtime interest for Paul.

"Growing up the mission field, you end up doing a lot of counselling with kids. I want to be able to help people be the best they can be and help them get to where they want to go."

Returning to school, however, wasn't without challenges. Paul's daughter suffers from anxiety disorders that required attention and his wife had her work hours significantly cut while he was studying at Fanshawe.

He is now investigating how to enrol in a master's degree program so he can work his way up to a social worker position.

"Education is a very important thing," said Paul. "Anyone can do it. Yes, things do come up that make it difficult but education gives you a sense of achievement and opens up doors that you never thought possible. In the end, it makes for a better life."