Going back to school was the hardest thing Aline Jablonski had ever done.
Out of the classroom for more than 30 years, she worked in heavy physical jobs since the late 1990s.
"Getting back into study mode was a challenge on its own, but no matter how hard it was I was determined to succeed," she said.
Jablonski had been downsized out of her materials handler job in 2007. She knew she needed to upgrade her skills for today’s market — at the time, she did not know how to turn on a computer.
"Doing maintenance work on a car was easier for me than learning computer applications," she said.
Jablonski applied and received funding for her college education under Ontario’s Second Career program. She enrolled in the Business Administration diploma program at the Barrie, Ont., campus of Everest College in May 2008. Jablonski finished classes in January of 2009.
She is now a program coordinator at a small company called Visions of Utopia.
Jablonski’s story is an example of the good work done by career colleges under the Second Career program. Launched in June 2008, the program has helped about 27,000 students pay for their college tuition, books and living expenses.
"Career colleges have delivered about half of the training under the Second Career program," said Paul Kitchin, executive director of the Ontario Association of Career Colleges.
In its recent budget, the Ontario government committed another $600 million to Second Career over two years to train 30,000 people.
Mark Duncan is another grateful Second Career recipient. He had worked in broadcasting and information technology in the United States before relocating to Kitchener, Ont., in 2006.
Duncan worked for a major IT firm for two years, until the recession caused massive cutbacks and he found himself without employment.
"I was disillusioned with the IT industry after 20 years, so I jumped at the chance to change careers and do something I love — become a chef," Duncan said.
Duncan enrolled in the Culinary Management program at Liaison College in Kitchener last June.
He is set to graduate with honours in June 2010. He has already been offered a job as an executive chef at a local retirement residence.
"Many people work for years in a profession that they dislike, and that fact makes it difficult for them to get up in the morning," he said.
"I can’t wait to get out of bed, to do what I enjoy so much, and I willingly stay to do more after hours," Duncan said.