Creating opportunity for Métis students

Four side-by-side pictures of Metis students.

When COVID-19 hit, Shawna L’Heureux’s wellness spa in Kimberley, BC had to shut down. Everything she had worked for more than 20 years was gone.

She decided to take Royal Roads University’s Professional Project Administrator (PPA) program. Offered through Royal Roads University’s Professional and Continuing Studies department in partnership with the Métis Nation of BC (MNBC), the innovative employment skills training program is designed and delivered for Métis people across the province.

Immersing herself in Métis culture and learning new skills, L’Heureux rebuilt her confidence. With the help of the career services built into the program, she has been offered and accepted a permanent, full-time teaching position with Northern Lights College including full benefits, paid summer and Christmas holidays and a pension.

After years of self-employment the extra help getting ready for interviews made a big difference to feeling ready to compete for a job, she says.

“I just feel like it was a lifesaver for me at the time. I honestly do. There's not enough words for me to describe what an amazing experience it was, I felt so honored to be able to get that kind of education, and have it paid for at a time when I'd lost everything,” she says.

There are a number of things that make the program special, says Tim Brigham, RRU program lead. One of them is the incredible variation in career employment supports that are available to students.

“I've never been part of a program that has been able to offer these enhanced supports to students, with everything from professional and career coaching, to resume and interview preparation,” he says. “The wrap around supports have really made a huge difference for the students and for their ability to step into employment after they complete the program.”

The program, which shifted online in response to the pandemic, provided the chance for students from across the province to learn, connect and pursue their personal and professional dreams safely, all with funding to support their education and future career goals.

L’Heureux’s peers also greatly benefited from the program. River Ritcey was recovering from a head injury and hadn’t worked in four years.

“The cultural component of it really made a big difference to me. To be in a room with other Métis felt amazing,” she says.

Ritcey graduated from the program and found a job in her field within weeks, then went on to find her dream job serving the Métis community. Over the course of the program, she found her writing skills were transformed, she learned important skills including proposal writing, and gained a valuable credential, all with a great deal of support that honoured her needs in her recovery.

Gaileen Flaman’s life changed, too. Dissatisfied with her career, she was looking for something new. She grew up without Métis cultural experiences and found herself longing for connection to her roots. After the PPA program, Flaman laddered her experience in learning to pursue more opportunities.

She went on to complete a Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Economic Development in partnership with the Haisla Nation, completed additional business development training through Métis Nation at UBC, and a business fundamentals program for Indigenous communities sponsored through the Malahat Nation.

“Where I'm at now, a big part of it, I feel is because of that PPA program really launching me, solidifying that I was on the right path and carrying me in that direction,” she says.

Bernadette Chaboyer completed the PPA program, went on to work in human services and has already been promoted. She found the program when she was stuck in a rut due to the pandemic. 

I've got the confidence now to get the job done, organizational skills and computer skills. It's been amazing,” she says. “Times have changed when it comes to education, and the way things are done. It gave me the confidence to pursue bigger career goals as well as life goals,” she continued.

L’Heureux, Ritcey, Flaman and Chaboyer completed a new credential, found confidence, employment, cultural connection and spent precious time with a Métis Elder who supported and inspired them. The Professional Project Administrator program helped them organize and plot out new lives and experiences. At a time where most of life was being lived six feet apart, opportunities to learn, grow and rebuild were never closer.

The Professional Project Administrator Program is supported through funding from the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre.