by Anne McDonagh

originally published in the December, 2011 Issue

Christina Lukie has just begun training for a career in social services at George Brown College. Unlike some of her fellow students she knows what she is getting into. And so she is likely to stay the course until graduation. Because Christina is a Second Career client, she has a clear idea what her work will be like; and she knows her salary will be modest when she graduates; nevertheless, she is certain that this is the career for her. Also, she knows that there are ways to advance. For instance, in two years when she gets her diploma from George Brown, she could then take another two years at Ryerson University and get her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work.

Second Career, introduced in 2009 and sponsored by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, is a signature program of the Ontario Government. Its goal is to re-tool 20,000 workers for the jobs of the future. The money available to those accepted into the program—up to $28,000 over two years—is for books, living expenses, help caring for dependents, travel, transportation, disability supports and other living and training costs. This is a generous grant—not a loan—for two years to help people help themselves.

Until recently, Christina worked as a nanny. She enjoyed working with children but realized there was no career path in this field and started looking for other options.

Christina began the process of becoming a Second Career client in October of 2010. Her employment counsellor at St. Stephen’s Community House, Employment and Training Services, Ana Paredes, supported Christina during the whole process of becoming accepted as a Second Career client.

In December of 2010, Christina learned that she was eligible—not accepted, just eligible—for Second Career. That is when the work began.

With Ana’s help she considered what work she would like to do. Then as required by Second Career, she researched the careers of interest to her. She decided upon social services hoping one day to work with children or youth, thus building upon her previous skills and experience as a nanny.

For eight months she researched work in social services. She met monthly with Ana to whom Christina says she will be eternally grateful for her direction and encouragement. Christina interviewed people in the field, did labour market research such as the demand for social service workers. She found out what the prerequisites were and what subjects she would study. She was disappointed when she found out what she would get paid. The starting salary was less than she earned as a nanny. But she decided she would like to work in this field anyway. Besides, there was a career path and the opportunity for advancement.

Even after all that research, Christina still did not know for sure if she would be accepted as a Second Career client. But in July she was accepted and in September she began her training.

Why such a demanding process to become a Second Career client? The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities is investing so much money and the re-tooling of workers is so important, that it wants to be sure that the clients want to and are able to make optimum use of the program.

Christina proved to herself, to her counsellor Ana and to Second Career that she is likely to complete the program and have a successful career in social services.

Toronto, Canada