Second Career Success Story: John Nadeau
Just a few weeks after John Nadeau graduated from the Culinary Arts program at St. Clair College, he'd received three job offers.
It was a remarkable turnaround for the former autoworker. He'd spent almost 20 years in construction and manufacturing jobs before landing a full-time position at Windsor's Ford plant back in 1996.
John had been working for the auto giant for 13 years, most recently on the assembly line, when everything suddenly shifted: he was one of the 500 workers laid off when Ford cut production to counter tumbling auto sales.
"I didn't know what I was going do, but I'm the type of person who can't just sit around and wait," he says. His first step was a visit to the Ford/CAW Local 200 Workers' Adjustment Centre (WAC). The centre is jointly operated by CAW Local 200, the Ford Motor Company and the Government of Ontario to help laid-off workers adjust to the transition to other employment. It offers counselling and assistance with job search, updating résumés, filing employment insurance documents, and accessing government programs that offer help to unemployed workers.
"I was there to file for E.I.," says John, recalling how he arrived at the decision to study cooking. "Second Career was brought to my attention at the Adjustment Centre."
With the support of a WAC employment counsellor and the Second Career research and application process, John decided to pursue a cooking career. Many years before, in fact, John had done a stint as a line cook. "I went down to St. Clair College and checked out their program," he says. "Being out of school for 29 years, I was kind of apprehensive at first, but I had worked in restaurants before."
John struggled a bit at the beginning of his program: "At first," he says, "sometimes I thought 'What are you doing getting into this?'"
The problem wasn't his cooking, it was his lack of computer skills: "When I started, my computer was down, and I didn't go on the computer that much, anyway. The first project I had to do was on yeast. I stencilled in my cover page, making the letters rise up, like yeast does. But when I brought it to class, the teacher laughed. She said: 'You have to do your project on the computer.' What I'm trying to say is, I went from the Stone Age to the Technology Age in nine months. By Christmas, I was getting As."
John's young classmates helped him focus on how much he'd learned over the years. He was equally impressed with the instructors at St. Clair, particularly their dedication to see their students succeed.
John started handing out résumés as soon as he'd completed his program.
"A couple of weeks later, I started getting phone calls," he says. "I had three different job opportunities."
Now happliy working at a local restaurant, John knows there are plenty of opportunities for people with his training: "I've had a few other full-time offers. They're really short of staff out there. There are lots of different things you can do, even work on a cruise ship. And there's a chance I could open my own place."
"When I talk to fellow co-workers going back for retraining now, they're facing all the same anxiety and confusion I did. I tell them if I can do it, as long as they apply themselves and are honest with themselves and work hard, they'll make it. Nothing worthwhile is going to come easy. You have to read your books. You have to give it 110 per cent and make sure you're organized."
"Without Second Career, I never would have gone back to school. I wouldn't have continued my education, wouldn't have had to dig down deep to find out what I was made of – what I could accomplish."