Holland College Blog

News and views from around the college

Archive for May 2010

Job prospects promising for Bioscience Technology graduates

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Student Amanda Moses discusses her project with Rory Francis, Executive Director of PEI BioAlliance.

The Bioscience Technology lab in the college’s Charlottetown Centre was filled to the brim with visitors last week, an unusual occurrence in the state-of-the-art classroom. Graduating students from the two-year program were rubbing elbows with representatives from businesses related to the bioscience industry, members of the bioscience community, and people interested in finding out more about the program when they presented their final research projects in a poster session.Learning Manager Mike Gibson was pleased with the turnout.“It was very encouraging to see so many people from industry here. The students worked hard to pull everything together in time for the open house, so they really appreciated the interest that the event generated,” he said.This is the second graduating class from the Bioscience Technology program, and all indications are that the demand for their skills is by no means abating. Almost all of this year’s graduates have received employment offers from local companies. The program’s ability to train students to meet the industry’s demand is clearly one of the keys to its success.

Students welcomed the opportunity to discuss their final projects with visitors.

“I have had opportunity over my 27 years in the Biological vaccine manufacturing industry to have interviewed and hired many graduates who majored in various science disciplines,” says Daryl Pint, Senior Manager of Technical Operations for Novartis Animal Health Canada Inc. “I have found the students graduating from the Bioscience Technology program are specifically trained in application. The Bioscience Technology program not only teaches students theory but trains them in practical application.  I am amazed at the abilities of these students to quickly enter our various R&D, Quality Control, and Technical Operations departments and make an immediate impact.

“We continue to seek graduates from this program because of the high standards they are required to meet for graduation,” he added.

Student Jillian MacAulay discusses her final project with visitor Jessy Livingston-Thomas.

The Bioscience Technology program trains students to work as technologists in the biotechnology areas related to pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, environment, food and agriculture. Students learn basic laboratory skills, analytical and organic chemical procedures and microbiological techniques. Specialized techniques in molecular biology, genetics, tissue culturing, protein purification and immunology are emphasized, as well as industrial processes in food, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical production, and the health and safety issues associated with these work environments.

Rory Francis, Executive Director of PEI BioAlliance, says the college’s Bioscience Technology program has responded well to the needs of the industry.

“Holland College has truly exceeded the expectations of our BioAlliance partners, who first recommended the establishment of the program. From the outstanding commitment of instructor Dr. Michael Gibson, to the satisfaction of our bioscience businesses with the quality of the graduates, to the high degree of employment success for the students, the Bioscience Technology program is a huge success.”

Student Ashley Patterson discussing her research with Rory Francis.

Student Sarah Daley explains her research to Marty Poy, Manager of Technical Service, Phyterra Bio Inc.

Written by Sara Underwood

May 21, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Alumni, Students

Holland College staff join forces to get into shape

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Kim Gallant, first place winner.


Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows how difficult it can be. Anyone who’s succeeded knows how rewarding it is to have more energy and to be able to button things that used to strenuously resist buttoning. It’s a feeling of self-empowerment and accomplishment, of taking charge of one’s health and reaping the benefits. When Holland College’s Wellness Committee challenged staff to improve their health by losing weight, 42 stepped to up to the plate and in only eight weeks shed a total of 235 lbs. 

Leslie Holt, a library technician in the Charlottetown Centre, coordinated the event for the Wellness Committee. 

“We had 13 people from the Charlottetown Centre, seven from the Tourism and Culinary Centre, four from Adult Ed, nine from the Aerospace Centre, and nine from Montgomery Hall,” she said. “Staff of all ages participated. It was great fun.” 

There was a $10 registration fee for each participant, and then an additional $2 per week went into the kitty for weekly draws. Every Friday, recorders at each centre would weigh the contestants and send the results to Leslie. 

Kim Gallant, Secretary for Industrial Technology and Trades in the Aerospace Centre in Slemon Park, topped the charts with a total weight loss of 17lbs. Her prize included $426, and a $200 gift certificate to the Inns on Great George, given to her in a Publisher’s Clearing House-style presentation complete with balloons and flowers. 

Kim said the competition came at a perfect time for her. 

“I had already started focusing on a ‘healthier’ me for 2010,” she said. “This sounded like fun.” 

She said rather than going on a diet, she focused on drinking water and watching what she ate. 

“I basically went from drinking ZERO water to drinking water constantly throughout the day. I paid more attention to what I was eating, when and how often I ate, with more healthy snacks throughout the day. If I could offer one word of advice, it would be: WATER!” 

She also made sure she got plenty of exercise. 

“Pretty well every day I spent my lunchtime at the APA gym. This was something I started to do the beginning of 2010. I basically just stuck to cardio and the first month (January) I wasn’t seeing the results on the scale, but then in February the weight started coming off gradually. I do want to mention the great group we have at Aerospace Centre that go to the APA gym over lunch. It’s a great motivator knowing that certain co-workers are going to be asking if you’re going to the gym, as you don’t want to be the one to say you’re not going!” 

Second place winner Keely Gallant Vos


LINC instructor Keely Gallant Vos, who placed second in the competition, and third place winner Gweneth Branch-Rice, the Fundamental Arts learning manager, had pretty much the same strategy – watching food portions and exercising – in their plans, too. 

“I have always been a healthy eater, but I decided I would keep a food journal and watch my portions,” Keely explained. “I cut out a lot of my carbs, salt and all processed foods. I also incorporated a lot of exercise, a minimum of 30 minutes a day, maybe a few one hour sessions a week at the gym.” 

Gweneth decided to participate on a whim, but found it was just what she needed to get off 15 pounds. 

“I just cut back on portion size and cut out sugar. I usually exercise but I upped what I usually do and I started going to yoga. The college organized the yoga class, and I loved it and have continued even though the class is over here,” she said. 

Ryan Johnston, third place winner Gweneth Branch-Rice (centre), and competition coordinator Leslie Holt


All three agreed that the atmosphere of friendly competition and support on a weekly basis went a long way toward helping them achieve their weight loss. 

“[It] was a way to motivate myself and make me accountable to myself,” Keely explained. “Winning a few weekly pots helped too! The competition was one of the tools that helped me…. I discovered that I needed to have many resources at hand to achieve my goal.” 

“The weigh-ins can certainly make you behave! I needed that!” Kim said. 

The three all continue to exercise and watch their diets. 

“The competition may be over, but my personal challenge is not. I’m continuing to drink my water and I go to the gym at lunch still,” Kim said, adding that she learned something about herself over the course of the eight weeks. 

“When I found out I won the mid-way prize, the competitor in me suddenly surfaced. I didn’t realize I had that in me! I should have played sports as a child!” 

Ryan Johnston, Director of Human Resources at the college, said he was pleased with the results of the competition. 

“It’s our goal to make sure that our employees have the tools at hand to take responsibility for their health. The Wellness Committee, which is comprised of staff volunteers, works hard to come up with initiatives that employees will want to participate in. Given the response to this competition, I think that we’ll probably run it again,” he said. 

Leslie and Ryan (far left) presented Kim with her prizes in her office at the Aerospace Centre in Summerside. Kim said the support that the staff at the Aerospace Centre give to each other has been key to enabling her to stay true to her wellness plan.


Organizer and Wellness Committee member Leslie said that some of the competitors continue to meet on a regular basis, providing each other with support and motivation.

Written by Sara Underwood

May 13, 2010 at 11:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Welding program sparks interest of Trade HERizons students

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One of the HERizons participants tries her hand at welding.

At the age of 29, Hollie Myers was losing hope of ever finding a job that would support her and her two small boys. Raven Nichols, 24, was feeling pretty much the same about the prospects for her and her daughter. So were 32-year-old Lynn Bradley, mother of four, and 28-year-old Paschale Matthews, mother of a little boy.

For various reasons the women had all but fallen off the radar. Unable to find permanent employment or underemployed, no longer eligible for employment insurance benefits, sometimes living on social assistance, their futures looked less than rosy. The notion of returning to school to get training was almost unthinkable. There were just too many barriers to overcome.

Their circumstances are frighteningly familiar. It’s the same situation many of women across the Island find themselves in. With their day-to-day living expenses consuming all of what little income they have, the possibility of returning to school to earn a credential and start a career almost inevitably sink below the horizon. With so few options, it becomes difficult for people to imagine how their lives could be different, and so it’s difficult to develop a plan that will enable them to move forward.

Or that has how it has been in the past. Now there’s a new program offered by Women’s Network PEI which has enabled these four women and seven others to explore non-traditional careers in trades and technology. Through Holland College programs, Trade HERizons allows participants to explore their interests and create educational pathways and economic well-being.

It’s not just about providing women with experiences that will enable them to start planning a future (as though that weren’t enough); it’s about meeting the labour force needs of the province. Shortages are predicted for the skilled construction trades and technology occupations on P.E.I. in the near future, so these women are exploring career opportunities in areas where work will be available.

“We are really excited about this project because it allows women the opportunity to find a career that pays well and will allow them to create a livelihood for themselves. The Province of PEI has been an excellent partner because they recognize that it is important to help reduce barriers to women’s participation in the workforce. They also recognize that this program helps meet the upcoming labour shortage in skilled trades on PEI,” said Sara Roach-Lewis, Trade HERizons project manager.

Lynn, Hollie, Paschale and Raven in the welding shop.

For Hollie, Raven, Lynn and Paschale, HERizons has given them the opportunity to participate in a variety of hands-on activities that give them a sense of what careers in different fields would be like. After participating in carpentry, wood manufacturing – cabinetmaking, automotive technology, wind turbine technology, construction technology, architectural technology, welding, and computer information systems, three of the four have decided that they want to return to the college to enter the Welding Fabrication program.

I dropped down to the Georgetown Centre recently to discuss their experience in the HERizons program and their plans for the future.

“This was my last kick at the can,” Hollie explained, adding that at the time she was at home with a new baby, and felt her future looked dim.

She said she finds welding almost Zen-like.

“You start something at the beginning of the day, and by the end of day, you’re done. You’ve accomplished something.”

No matter how satisfying motherhood may be, I think most parents would agree that taking care of young babies can be a seemingly endless blur of bottles, diapers, and dirty laundry! For Hollie, the ability to find an opportunity to move forward was inspiring.

“Now I want to get my Red Seal,” she said decisively.

All four are very clear about what they want, how to get it, and why they want it — beside the prospect of good wages.

Lynn, Holly, Paschale and Raven

For Hollie, it’s the thrill of finding something to be passionate about. For Paschale and Lynne, it’s about job security. For Raven, it’s the creative aspect of metal fabrication. A quiet, artistic young woman, she said choosing to go into the HERizons program dealt the final blow to her relationship.

“My boyfriend didn’t want me working in an all-male environment,” she said. But his disapproval was not enough to keep her from signing up. Raven’s mother was her role model.

“My mom’s a mechanic, so it was no big deal to her,” she explained. But she noted that quite a few of people around her predicted that she would fail. For her, that’s strong motivation to succeed.

And while some of their friends may have been sceptical about their ability to succeed, Welding Fabrication Learning Manager Craig Boudreau said the four adapted well to the program.

“We had them sit in with or regular classes and work along side our students in the general shop areas,” Learning Manager Craig Boudreau said. “I think this went very well for both our current students and the women seeking an understanding of what welding is all about. The women were pleasantly surprised at the welcome they received in the college’s trade programs.”

“The instructors have been great,” Hollie said. “They’ve given us no special consideration, and we didn’t want any.” The others agreed. For the

three days, the women sat in on classes, and worked alongside students in the welding shop.

“It’s surpassed our expectations,” Raven added.

The students have been equally as welcoming, showing the women the projects that they were working on and talking about the program.

It’s surprising to me that after all these years, it is still a rarity to find women working in the trades. Currently there are only 49 women registered with PEI apprenticeship in non-traditional trades. With the current and predicted labour shortages, this is the ideal time for women to take a serious look at the salaries and job security they can find in the non-traditional fields.

Paschale welding in the shop.

Hollie, Raven and Paschale are considering taking the Welding Fabrication program at the college. Two of them are taking upgrading through Adult Education to ensure that they enter this program, or any other, with the strongest prerequisites possible.

After their three days in the Welding Fabrication program, they returned to the classroom to complete the 14-week program. They will spend the next few weeks involved in labour market research, attending gender and diversity in the workplace workshops, developing their portfolios, enhancing their computer skills, and earning certification in WHMIS, Occupational Health and Safety, First Aid, and CPR.

After spending an hour with this fearsome foursome, I have no doubt that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to! I look forward to seeing Hollie, Raven, and Paschale back at the Georgetown Center in the near future. Meanwhile, Lynn is considering a career as a correctional officer.

Written by Sara Underwood

May 6, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Staff, Students