Thompson Rivers University

Williams Lake students follow return-to-school trend

June 26, 2023

Nic Suapa, learning commons and student support co-ordinator at TRU Williams Lake

The BC Labour Market Outlook report predicts one million jobs will need to be filled in the next decade; almost 80 per cent of those positions will require post-secondary education or training.

For many workers, particularly those who are doing physical labour in their younger years, this could mean returning to school as an adult.

Nic Suapa, learning commons and student support co-ordinator at TRU Williams Lake, has close connections with students of all ages. He has noticed adults are returning to complete post-secondary programs later in life.

“Currently, we’re seeing adults that are already in the industry and want to change their career. The knowledge and skills that they had before doesn’t fit into the labour market like they had before,” he said.

“Many people work in the mines right after high school, and they make big bucks — it’s true. But now, with time passing, they cannot do the physical job anymore.”

Suapa has a PhD in adult education, so he understands the needs of students of all ages.

“I walk students through the whole process, like program plan, education plan, career plan and how to connect those pieces together. My job covers the whole student life cycle.”

For some students, he is the bridge to post-secondary education — and more opportunities— that they’ve been waiting for.

“The majority of students we see haven’t had great experiences with high school, and that might intimidate students when coming to post-secondary,” Suapa said.

“We know every single student. It’s not as easy on a bigger campus, but here we know what’s going on in the community, in the family, with the student. And it’s very important that we can incorporate that information into their daily educational journey.”

His support for students doesn’t end when they enroll.

“Because we have small enough class sizes, we can customize our services to individual students. They trust us so much,” he said.

“I love to help students discover their potential. When you work with someone and they achieve their goal, they walk across the stage, get their credential and find a job— that’s the best part of what we do.”

Suapa wants everyone to hold on to the feeling of pride and accomplishment as they graduate and move forward into their future.

“Remember the first day you showed up here, how you felt — and remember how you feel now,” he said.

“You can do anything you want to do; it’s up to you. You proved yourself.”

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