I cannot imagine what it would be like to have one profession my adult life and in the blink of an eye have to change my life course at the age of 43. All of the uncertainty and worry about being able to provide for my family would be almost enough to consume a person.
This is exactly what happened with one of our post-secondary students, Brian Thomas. Brian was a Market Manager/Butcher for 27 years before being hurt on the job. When listening to him, you can tell he enjoyed his craft and the amount of pride in how good he was at it. It was his life. It was the only skill he had to provide a livable wage to support his family. Unfortunately, Brian’s workplace accident fractured several vertebrae. The doctors were not able perform surgery on 2 of the vertebrae for fear of leaving him paralyzed. This left him with a 20lb weight restriction meaning he could not work in any manual labor job.
Brain had to start from scratch in his professional life. Having 3 children and a mortgage, Brian knew he had to work but was lost in what direction he should take. He did some research and found the CADD program at Francis Tuttle Technology Center. I spoke with Brian several times throughout the enrollment process. It was apparent that he was nervous and anxious to start the CADD program.
The first week after he started classes we touched base and he was enjoying the program, but was still apprehensive. The next week he came to me and said he thought that he had made a mistake. He said that he was having trouble but was not a quitter so he was going to see it through. The third week of Brian being enrolled I attended a CADD Advisory Board meeting. The instructor shared information with the group about a project his students were working on. He even showed one outstanding student’s project. I immediately knew who the creator was because of conversations that Brain and I had about his hobbies. I was proud that he had fought through his doubts and had given the program his all! That afternoon I went to the CADD program to tell Brian “I told you so.” Walking through the door of the classroom Brain looked at me and immediately came to me saying he needed to talk to me. He ushered me to a table in the corner and said, “I cannot do this program.” I was completely baffled! He was having an anxiety attack and almost in tears. He was talking about how he was never going to be able to keep up and he had definitely made a mistake enrolling into CADD. I told him I was in a little bit of shock because I had just been at a meeting where his instructor used his project over students that had been enrolled in the program for a much longer time. I shared some of the complements that the group was saying. I then asked, “Your teacher thinks you’re doing fabulous, why do you not think you are?” It turns out Brian had never used a computer except for the ten key to order products at his old profession. Not only was he training for a new profession with the weight of the world on his shoulders but he was training on a device that he was unfamiliar with. Brian was not comfortable telling his instructor that he needed him to slow down, that the simple instructions that were being given were not simple at all because he had never used that terminology before, or to ask him to show steps again. He was bottling up the worry and frustration, working hard to try to keep up and it had got to him. The weight of the mortgage, groceries, and family on his mind set him into panic mode.
Brian and I talked to the instructor who had no idea that he never used a computer before and the instructor was more than happy to slow down and repeat instructions. Now, Brian is ahead in his course work. He also has an air of confidence that was not apparent to me earlier in the school year. As a matter of fact, Brian has become someone that other students turn to for advice. He came to me just the other day and said, “you need to go talk to a student, they are feeling frustrated.”