Overcoming adversity: Indigenous trades grad creates a new start to a better future

After feeling burnt out from being a professional cook for 15 years, BCIT Welding Foundation program graduate Victoria Dupuis was unsure of what her future held. Victoria did not graduate high school traditionally, and felt that her options were limited. “The reason why I didn’t graduate on time was because I needed to work full time and support myself. I moved out when I was 15, and didn’t want to lose my job and become homeless,” shares Victoria.

It was by coincidence that Victoria met a female welder at a mutual friend’s baby shower – and her interest in welding was sparked. The next day, she contacted the online adult education center in Carman, Manitoba, where she had previously taken some courses. After an intense period of studying, Victoria successfully completed her remaining credits and obtained her high school diploma in May 2019. Within the same week, Victoria applied for the Welding Foundations program at BCIT and was accepted overnight. “All of a sudden, my life completely flipped for the better. I secured sponsorship through the Métis Nations of BC, got approved for educational EI, quit my cooking jobs, and was ready to start my Welding Foundations program at BCIT in August 2019,” explains Victoria.

Developing strength and resilience to succeed

Victoria’s path to graduation was not easy but she credits BCIT for providing her with the resources and support to succeed. In particular, she found one of her instructors, Pat Francois, very supportive. “Pat’s method of teaching was fantastic. He took the time and focused on the unique needs of each of his students. If we failed a project or test, he would sit down with us individually and offer some advice for next time. Pat was also equally skilled in teaching theory and practical,” says Victoria.

While in the program, Victoria also faced some mental health challenges. “I struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). At the start of the program, I was trying to find the right balance of medication to manage my emotions which left my confidence rather shaky when I would fail a weld or task. There were times when I would just need to stop in my booth, fight the urge to quit, fight back the tears and negative thoughts, and push through the inner turmoil. I still feel failure very strongly but I am happy to say I have since found a medication that helps with this,” she explains.

Despite her struggles, Victoria’s determination and competitive spirit pushed through to secure the top spot in her class by the time she finished it.

BCIT Indigenous Services also provided support to Victoria during her time as a student. After realizing that some of the welding practical tests were not covered by the Métis Nation sponsorship, Victoria reached out to Indigenous Services and they helped Victoria secure additional funding. Victoria is especially thankful for Zaa Joseph, Advisor for Indigenous Services, as he always made sure there was food available at the Gathering Place for Victoria. “I really appreciated this because there were times where I could barely afford lunch. I really enjoyed stopping in at the Gathering Place to study or grab some food,” Victoria recalls.

“We are always honoured to have our Indigenous students share their time at BCIT with our team. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were happy to provide a physical, welcoming space for Victoria to meet with her classmates, study, have a meal, and share her educational journey with our Indigenous Services staff at the Gathering Place,” shares Zaa Joseph. “Victoria worked hard to complete this level of her apprenticeship. Amazing perseverance and congratulations on your graduation from Welding Foundation, Victoria. We look forward to seeing you back on BCIT campus for your next level.”

A sense of accomplishment and the reward of working hard

The biggest reward Victoria received from graduating from the BCIT Welding Foundations program was the sense of accomplishment and reward of working hard. “If you were to tell me where I would be today 5-10 years ago, I would have laughed. Sobriety and the most supportive girlfriend I’ve ever had has given me a brand new life that I love for the first time,” Victoria says.

Currently, Victoria works for Fabwell Industries. “I can see myself spending a good amount of time working with them. The starting pay is great, full benefits, and assurance from the owner that there will be no lay-offs due to COVID-19,” adds Victoria.

As for advice for others who may be looking for a career change, Victoria says, “I spent almost 15 years in a career that I was unhappy in. I gave excuse after excuse, thinking that I was not good or smart enough to finish school, or that no one would give me a chance. I finally took the chance and invested in myself. Conquer your fears, get out there and do what you want because no one else will do it for you. I have no regrets changing my life and taking the Welding Foundation program at BCIT.”

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