This year, Jennifer Sampson simultaneously graduated from high school and completed the Level One Sheet Metal Fabrication foundation program at BCIT. She says the double accomplishment is all thanks to Tupper Tech, VSB Career Programs and the ACCESS Trades programs.
ACCESS Trades provides opportunities for urban First Nations people to complete technical training and begin an apprenticeship. The program provides participants with free tuition, a bus pass, a stipend to attend school and the occasional grocery gift card.
For Sampson, her introduction to sheet metal fabrication and ACCESS came at Tupper Tech, an innovative secondary school trades training program run by teacher Russ Evans. During her time studying and working under Evans, Sampson became increasingly interested in BCIT's sheet metal fabrication program.
"At first I didn't really know what sheet metal was when Mr. Evans and Wendy told me about it" says Sampson. She figured it was worth trying.
Tupper Tech teacher Russ Evans encouraged her knowing she could easily manage the transition from 2D to 3D fabrication. Meanwhile, Career Programs Apprenticeship Facilitator Wendy Gilmour went to bat for Sampson, convincing ACCESS program coordinators that Sampson could take the course while she was still in secondary school.
"I'm not sure what she told them, but they let me in," says Sampson.
While the program is intended for adults, the programmers made an exception for Sampson, who at 18, was the youngest in her BCIT cohort. She was the only woman in the group, but Sampson says her experience at Tupper Tech prepared her to be in a minority.
"It was OK because Tupper Tech had only three girls in it, so I was used to being in a male-dominated class," she says.
Her success was so inspiring, it even got her mother's friends considering heading back to school.
"My mom was pretty proud of me," she says. "Some of my mom's friends thought that since I did so well, maybe they should go back and finish high school."
After years of hard work, Sampson says her proudest moment was graduating. She says she hopes her commitment to the program will make Gilmour and Evans proud of her.
Equipped with a resume she perfected at BCIT, Sampson is now on the job hunt. She hopes to find work in a metal fab shop somewhere in Metro Vancouver.