Canadian veterans and reservists may soon be able to turn their military experience into education credits through a program that began at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.
The school is getting a funding boost of $830,000 to take the new national advanced placement and prior learning program across Canada.
BCIT’s Legion military skills conversion program was developed after discussions with injured soldiers who were staying at Honour House in New Westminster, according to Kevin Wainwright, who heads the program.
Honour House provides free temporary housing for members of the military and first responders, as well as their families, while they receive medical treatment and care in Metro Vancouver.
“We were originally going to do a resume writing job interview skills workshops, but then when we met with the soldiers and met with their commanding officers, we realized these guys had a lot more training than we were aware of,” he told the NOW. “So we said we could assess them and evaluate their training, and give them an opportunity for advanced placement in certain programs at BCIT.”
The pilot was done through the business program about six years ago, Wainwright said, with a handful of reservists who went into the advanced diploma program and later finished their business degrees.
The program received $250,000 over four years from its sponsor, the Royal Canadian Legion, B.C. and Yukon division.
Thus far, about 380 reservists and veterans have gone through the program, according to Wainwright. Some have gone back to school, while the program has connected others with recruitment firms that have special arrangements to help veterans.
The program also helps veterans start their own businesses, he added.
“Part of our funding actually allows us to give small amounts of seed capital to veterans who come to us with a business plan,” he said.
Canada Company, a charitable group formed to help members of the military transition into civilian jobs, provided assistance in getting the national program off the ground through its military employment transition program, according to Wainwright. The funding was secured through Employment and Social Development Canada.
“Now that we are funded, we’re going to do what we call a comprehensive mapping process, mapping as many military skills to as many different programs at BCIT as possible,” Wainwright said. “Simultaneously, we are creating a linkage with other schools.”
Post-secondary institutions ranging from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton all the way to Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, are taking part, he added.
“They were very keen to participate in this,” he said, adding the schools have similar programs to those offered at BCIT.
“What we’re doing is essentially creating a giant transfer guide web portal that will link those schools together, so that if any one of the schools develops a pathway for a soldier, it gets loaded into this network,” he said. “And then every other school that offers a similar program can benefit from the mapping, so they don’t have to basically reinvent the wheel.
“This program is the first of its kind in North America,” he added.