Frida Sibal is proof positive that it’s never too late to realize your dreams.
Eight years after arriving in Canada from the Philippines, and nearly 30 years after her last stint as a full-time student, Sibal enrolled in Red River College’s Administrative Assistant program.
“It was finally the change I was looking for in Canada, deciding to go back to school and choosing Red River College,” says the 49-year-old graduate. “There is room for success for people my age.”
Last December, Sibal completed a three-week practicum at Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries. Five months later, the Crown corporation called, wanting to know if Sibal was interested in filling a term position as a human resources administrator.
Sibal leaped at the opportunity.
“The experience they are giving me is amazing,” Sibal says. “I am doing work for the educational assistance program, keeping files organized electronically. It’s a lot of day-to-day data entry — the kind of work that requires keen attention to details, because it involves a lot of workflows and processes. You really have to have sharp eyes to make sure you are entering the right data.”
After just three months, Sibal is already involved in orientation sessions for new staff.
“I love that,” she says. “I get to meet the new employees and talk to them and guide them… I would not have been confident doing that if not for the presentation classes I took (at Red River College).”
In the Philippines, Sibal worked for a telephone company for 14 years before quitting to become a full-time mom to her two young daughters. “I had to prioritize my kids,” she says.
By the time Sibal, her husband Alvin and daughters moved to Winnipeg to seek new opportunities, she had been out of the workforce for six years.
“Coming here, the thing that was looming over my head was a fresh start — how do I find it and how do I actually start my fresh start?” Sibal explains.
“It had been six years since I worked, so you can just imagine my self-esteem was so low. What was I going to do? There had been so many changes technology-wise, and I didn’t have any education with computers when I was in college in the Philippines.”
Sibal found part-time work in the service and retail sectors, but wanted something more. After a term position with the Canada Revenue Agency came to an end, she began exploring the possibility of returning to school.
Sibal says she researched other post-secondary options and concluded Red River College’s 17-week program would provide her with the best opportunity to acquire marketable skills in a relatively short period of time.
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” Sibal says. “Seventeen weeks for 10 courses was crazy. It was so intense, so fast-paced. The good thing is, the instructors are very helpful —they won’t let the class go by without you understanding everything, and they answer a lot of questions.”
The Administrative Assistant program “was only 17 weeks, but it did magic.”
“All the techniques and the advice that I learned, I am applying them to the technology,” Sibal says. “Because I am now familiar with computers and I am confident, that has helped me a lot to adapt. I am just really happy that at my age I could … It’s an amazing feeling that the change I had been looking for and the fresh start that I had planned eight years ago is finally happening now.
“Red River College prepared me for take-off and now I have landed on my feet … and I’m enjoying every bit of it.”