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Package deal: Machining grad’s skill set prepares him for range of roles in manufacturing

October 15, 2019

Jesus Bojorquez, Red River CollegeJesús Bojorquez is the total package.

A graduate of Red River College’s Precision Metal Machining program, Bojorquez works as an assistant operator at Winpak Ltd., a company that manufactures and distributes packaging materials.

Bojorquez, who is from Cancun, Mexico, credits RRC with helping him to develop a comprehensive skill-set that has enabled him to be a go-to guy at his workplace.

“What I learned from my teachers is not just how to run the machines, but to respect the machines. You need to take care of them. If you know how they work, you know when something is wrong and you know how to fix it,” says Bojorquez, 36, who graduated from the year-long pre-employment program in 2016.

“I’ve been with Winpak for almost two years, and because of the knowledge that I acquired from Red River, my supervisor always moves me from one area to another to another. I’m one of the few people that knows how to be in every single side of the department.”

In Mexico, Bojorquez worked in the sales department for a hotel and resort operator. With a desire to work with his hands (and hotel/resort work hard to come by in wintery Winnipeg), Bojorquez opted to pursue an entirely different path at RRC.

“I chose Precision Metal Machining because it was the first step for me to go into Mechanical Engineering Technology, which is also at Red River,” Bojorquez says.

“But my family grew — I have two kids now and another coming, so it was not that easy to continue. Then I started working, and everything changes in our life. I want to go back to Red River eventually, but not to go into Mechanical Engineering Technology. Now, I want to do Aerospace Manufacturing.” Read More →

Enhancing awareness: Chemical and Biosciences grad increases supports for Indigenous Peoples

October 2, 2019

Jake Freeman is incorporating her Indigenous culture into her career.

A proud Métis woman, Freeman is currently working in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Indigenous Support and Awareness Office.

According to AAFC’s website, the office was established in 2017 to enhance the department’s ability to support Indigenous agriculture, by increasing recruitment and retention of Indigenous employees, and enhancing awareness of Indigenous Peoples and cultures through a department-wide training program.

Freeman graduated from Red River College’s Chemical and Biosciences Technology program (now Science Laboratory Technology) in 2000. She went on to work for AAFC for 17 years as a resource technician, where her duties included working with water and soil specialists to support the set-up and operation of field monitoring equipment.

“I’m still at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, but I’m on an assignment right now with our Indigenous Support and Awareness Office as a content developer for the Indigenous Awareness Learning Series that we’re doing within our department,” Freeman says.

“I go through what kind of learning is available through other departments, schools, online, etc. I check and see if there’s anything our department can work with other departments on with some of the learning that they’re doing.

“I’m also one of three co-chairs for our Indigenous Network Circle, which is for Indigenous employees across the country that work at AAFC. Through the network we’ve ended up doing a book club called Indigenous Reads, which is available at no cost to employees through the Canadian Agriculture Library. It’s all books recommended by Indigenous employees and usually by Indigenous authors, sometimes about culture, language, arts, and even traditional agriculture. It’s a way we can help facilitate learning through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.” Read More →

Empathy in action: Culture shock gives way to community support for Health Care Aide alum

September 12, 2019

Saba Tesfamariam, Red River CollegeSaba Tesfamariam cares for the people you care about the most.

A graduate of Red River College’s Health Care Aide program, Tesfamariam works as a health care aide at Extendicare in Winnipeg, helping senior citizens live comfortable lives.

“As a health care aide, I help the residents with their daily living and activities, like cleaning them, bathing them and dressing them,” she says. “I love it. Helping people, I love to do that.”

Tesfamariam, 37, immigrated in 2013 from Asmara, Eritrea. Asmara is the capital and most populous city in the African country, which is located along the Red Sea and bordered by Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

“My husband heard from his friend that Red River College was the nicest college here and that it is acceptable everywhere,” Tesfamariam says.

“My husband encouraged me to attend English for Adults classes (at RRC’s Language Training Centre). I told my teacher I was interested in Health Care Aide because it is the shortest program and the requirement with my English level was easy to access. She gave me the details and after six months attending that English class, I got all the requirements, I got College access and then I took the program.”

Health Care Aide is a 20-week certificate program delivered at six RRC campuses. In the program, aspiring health care aides develop the skills they’ll need to assist clients with their physical, emotional and social needs.

Health Care Aide students also receive on-the-job training with six weeks of work placement in health care agencies.

“The way they taught us was very easy, very understandable. It was a very good course,” Tesfamariam says. “We did practice every other lesson, and the six-week practicum after you’re done (the program) was very helpful.” Read More →

Hospitality grad finds new confidence through volunteer work, extracurriculars

August 28, 2019

Andy Pham, Red River CollegeAs an international student, Andy Pham adjusted to life in a new land by diving headfirst into a range of extracurricular activities.

Pham, who is from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, is a graduate of Red River College’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program.

In addition to his studies, Pham represented his classmates on the College’s Student Advisory Board, participated in RRC’s cultural and language mentorship program and ran for a vice-president position on the RRC Students’ Association executive.

Being an active student “helps international students to be confident, (and gives them) the ability to be different, and to speak out,” says Pham, 25, who graduated from RRC in 2016.

“It was great to be on the board and it was great to run a campaign. It was a memorable time in my life. I never regret going to Red River College because there’s so much opportunity for students, but some students just don’t get to know it well, especially international students.

“My goal is one day I’m going to guide international students to where to go and where to be, and not just in academic life … That’s the best part, to be active and involved. Not just go to school, go home, read a book. No, you have to enjoy every moment.”

Pham, who is openly gay, also created and presided over RRC’s LGBTT* and Friends Club. Off campus, he acted as a tourism coordinator for the Pride Winnipeg Festival and a volunteer coordinator for the Reel Pride Film Festival.

“It’s important to me because it let me know who I am,” says Pham, who was not out before moving to Canada.

“I can be with the community more, because I have no chance to be with the community back home. I see a lot of people at Pride, successful themselves as career people, and now they also give back. They see a responsibility to do something meaningful to other people.” Read More →

Top flight: Aircraft Maintenance Engineer grad parlays technical training into taproom triumph

August 23, 2019

Brewing expert Matt Wolff knows a thing or two about flights.

In 2004, Wolff graduated from Red River College’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) program. Now he’s the operations manager at Torque Brewing, responsible for the production of such beloved brews as What the Helles and The Witty Belgian.

Aircraft and craft beer might seem dissimilar, but Wolff says he’s able to apply his AME training to beer brewing.

“My role is operations manager so I’m in charge of all the production, a good portion of logistics, facility maintenance, equipment maintenance, everything,” says Wolff, 35, while prepping for Torque’s third anniversary party on Sat., Aug. 24.

“Every day there’s something that will just not work properly, where someone will have to find the source of the problem and repair it or you’re not going to meet your production quota. I have that ability to get in there and get my hands dirty, do the repair or find the solution to it.”

“Whether it’s an aircraft or a car or a brewery, the fundamentals are the same, from electrical to pneumatics to mechanical. If you have that understanding, you shouldn’t have a problem putting that into different locales.”

Wolff got into the beer-brewing business at age 18 through his brother’s future father-in-law, who had recently launched Two Rivers Brewing. In 2003, Two Rivers amalgamated with Fort Garry Brewing.

“I was young, I didn’t have anything lined up, and they said ‘You know we have a part-time position here. Are you interested in working at brewery?’” he says.

“The first question that came to mind was, ‘Is there free beer?’ And the answer was, ‘Yeah, you’re working at a brewery.’” Read More →

Strictly business: Move from South Asia to Manitoba leads to accelerated career in accounting

July 31, 2019

Anika Maria, Red River CollegeBangladesh to Canada is quite the trek, but for Anika Maria, the long road was the shortest route.

Maria is an accountant at MLT Aikins LLP in Winnipeg, a law firm with offices throughout Western Canada.

Originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city, Maria chose Red River College’s Business Administration program to accelerate her career in accounting.

“I chose Canada because the education seemed more practical to me,” Maria, 25, says.

“Back home, people actually get a degree and then a masters and then they join the field. I didn’t like that approach. I wanted to start early, I wanted to gain some experience, so I chose to come to Canada because I like the structure better. Here you can do a two-year diploma, get into the workforce, and continue your studies as you’re getting experience.”

A two-year diploma program, Business Administration is structured so second-year students declare a major in either accounting, administration, financial services, marketing or human resources.

Maria majored in accounting and completed the program in 2015. In May 2016, she was hired at St. John’s Music as an accounting manager. She moved into her current position at MLT Aikins in March of last year.

Maria believes the heavy workload in the Business Administration program has helped her move up the accounting ranks quickly.

“It’s intense. Doing six courses in every semester is intense. It doesn’t matter what major; six courses are a lot. Time management was the main thing I learned,” Maria says.

“I was actually working when I was at Red River. I was a full-time student and a part-time worker (as a cashier), so that life is what led me to prioritize things. I have these many hours in a day and I have to crunch in my assignments and go to all my classes. I have to do all of these things and then work as well.” Read More →

Manufacturing Technician grad tapped for Air Force One clean team

July 5, 2019

For the second year in a row, a Red River College alum has been hand-picked to join Air Force One’s Detailing Team, whose members will spend the next week restoring a fleet of historic aircraft on display at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

Crisanto Aquino, a 2004 Manufacturing Technician grad now working at Dr. Shine Auto Spa in Winnipeg, is the only Canadian detailer to be selected for the task — by no less an expert than the man who’s overseen Air Force One’s restoration efforts for the last 16 years.

“He’s perfected his skill at cleaning and polishing paint and metal,” says U.S. detailer Renny Doyle of Aquino.

“When I chose him for the team last year, I was confident he was qualified for the job. After a year on the team, he’s proven he has the experience needed to continue our work, and he has the leadership skills to help us coordinate new team members and show them the ropes.”

Each year, a team of detailers from Canada, the Caribbean and the U.S. is selected to restore, maintain and protect Air Force One — which served as a flying Oval Office for former U.S. presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon — and more than a dozen other historic aircraft, including the first ever Boeing 747, the Concorde Alpha Golf and the first Boeing 727-022 commercial airliner.

Recent additions to the fleet — currently on exhibit at the museum’s Airpark Pavilion — include a solid aluminum WWII B-29 Super Fortress bomber and a badly deteriorating Vietnam-era B-52G Stratofortress bomber.

All told, Aquino will spend eight days working on the aircraft under Doyle’s direction.

“I am just as excited about being chosen for the team … but I think I bring more to the table this year than last,” he says. “It is an honor to be stewards and caretakers for all these iconic aircraft — especially Air Force One.”

Doyle and his team were first tapped to restore Air Force One in 2003, when a Bush administration exec learned of his expertise restoring classic cars. Though it no longer sits on an open tarmac, the jet still requires a cleaning every year, as the open-air pavilion where it’s displayed leaves it exposed to dampness and cold that causes paint and brightwork to become cloudy.

Instructors’ experience proves invaluable for Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic grad

June 17, 2019

Charles Lu, Red River CollegeCharles Lu helps drivers to keep on truckin’. 

A native of Shenyang, China, Lu works as a truck and transport mechanic at Custom Truck Sales in Winnipeg, where he diagnoses, maintains and repairs big rigs and medium duty trucks. 

Lu started at Custom Truck Sales shortly after graduating from Red River College’s Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic program in 2013. He says the hands-on style of learning he received at RRC set him up for success in the shop. 

“I gained a lot of really valuable knowledge and experience,” says Lu, who also goes by Yibo, his Chinese name.

“I learned a lot in the shop class at Red River College. In the school they have a real truck that you work on. You can do brake jobs, transmission overhaul, engine overhaul, same [as in] the real world. That’s fantastic.”

Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic is a one-year certificate program offered at RRC’s Notre Dame Campus. The entry-level program prepares aspiring mechanics to service and repair heavy mobile equipment, with 60 per cent of the program spent doing hands-on work on heavy machinery.  

Lu, 40, says the instruction he received in the program was top-notch, taught by teachers with plenty of experience and grease on their overalls. 

“I think pretty much all the instructors had been working in this trade for a couple decades, so they were really well-educated and experienced,” he says. “They talk about the real stories that they have been through, and they shared that with us.” Read More →

By the books: Interlake grad lands library role after returning to school later in life

May 27, 2019

Darlene Phillips says going back to college in her 40s was an adjustment, but she wanted to be better equipped to re-enter the workforce.

She already knew she liked numbers and had prior experience working in office jobs, so she decided to attend Red River College’s Interlake Campus in Selkirk to update her training.

Between June 2014 and December 2015, she completed a total of five courses: Bookkeeping and Small Business Office, Business, Accounting and Management, Human Resource Management, Business and Administrative Studies, and Management Development.

She said the course load was exhausting, but worthwhile.

“It was very overwhelming in the beginning, but as time went by I adapted to college life. I really liked the smaller classroom setting where everyone had a common goal,” says Phillips.

“You can never give up on yourself,” she continues. “When you feel overwhelmed you must remember your goals, and gather your inner strength to succeed from that.”

“I know now there’s nothing holding me back.” Read More →

Strong medicine: Health Care grad bolsters career training with double dose of certifications

May 21, 2019

Sharmaine San Juan, Red River CollegeSharmaine San Juan has her finger on the pulse of the Canadian health-care system.

San Juan, who is from Bacoor, Cavite in the Philippines, graduated from Red River College’s Health Care Aide and Health Unit Clerk programs in February 2018.

Upon finishing school, San Juan, 24, immediately obtained employment as nursing assistant at Health Sciences Centre. She currently works as a pharmacy assistant at Keewatin Medical Centre & Pharmacy, as well as at Medisystem Pharmacy.

“In my current career as a pharmacy assistant, (my RRC training) benefitted me a lot because I was exposed to hospital and home-care settings, and that gave me a lot of experience in a fast-paced environment. Also, I gained knowledge of medical terminology and processing physician’s orders,” says San Juan.

“Before, as a nursing assistant, I transcribed medications on a Medication Administration Record sheet. We learned this during the Health Unit Clerk program, the drugs, generic and brand names, the acronyms for drugs, the proper time for administering medications, and also the proper drugs for some diseases.”

Before coming to Canada, San Juan studied pre-med at De La Salle University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology before moving straight to a post-graduate degree from the College of Medicine at the Health Sciences Institute in the Philippines.

In her current role as a pharmacy assistant, San Juan says she performs such tasks as counting and dispensing drugs, maintaining proper drug storage and security, packing and labeling medications, and entering patient information and prescriptions into a computer system.

“I chose to study at Red River College because of what they can offer. They are known for having a high success rate in vocational courses, which is beneficial to people who are seeking fast employment,” she says.

“I chose Health Care Aide and Health Unit Clerk because I think this is the closest to my field, being exposed to patients in a hospital setting. They are also in-demand programs which will benefit me in getting employment fast — that will also help get me through my permanent residency.” Read More →