Future Engineer From Wikwemikong First Nation Says Education Is Key To His Success

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When it comes to setting yourself up to achieve your professional goals, you can only hope that you will eventually be in a position where you are afforded the luxury of choice.

Often the goal of a new graduate is to have the opportunity to choose between multiple job offers.

But in the case of Joseph Wabegijig, the choice was a little bit different.

Joseph is Odawa from the Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island in Ontario. He first learned the importance of hard work and education through his parents and grandparents, and this influenced his decision to move to Peterborough to pursue a Home and Building and Automation Technician diploma at Fleming College.

There he put himself through school with the money he had earned from the two jobs he’d held before moving to Peterborough.

It was this diploma that eventually brought Joseph to the nation’s capital, where he worked in the high-end audio-video and electronic fields for several years. While in Ottawa, he had the opportunity to work on some very large-scale projects, including electronics in the Governor General’s residence, the House of Commons and several other historical buildings.

It was this work that allowed him to pursue a position as a Team Leader on a construction site, which sparked his passion for civil engineering.

This experience, combined with his passion for learning, pushed Joseph to enrol in the Civil Engineering Technology program at Algonquin College. During the first two years of this program, he worked full-time to support himself and his son, Phoenix.

He had the opportunity to work for an Engineer and General Contractor, where he utilized his knowledge in a practical setting.

“Education blessed me with the ability to live and work in places I didn’t even think were options to me.” —Joseph Wabegijig, Civil Engineering student, Lakehead University

It’s no surprise that with his ambitious and hard-working spirit, he was selected to attend Inclusion Works ’12 as he finished up his second diploma.

This event, organized by the Aboriginal Human Resource Council, presented the opportunity for Joseph to make some very valuable professional connections. When it comes to networking events such as these, he says, “Always keep an open mind about a company – they may not be looking for a graduate in your field, but they may know someone at another company who is looking for someone with your skills.”

After participating in the event, Joseph received three job offers. He personally saw these positions as dream jobs, but they were not the only offers he had to consider.

He also received a letter from Lakehead University accepting him into the third year of their Civil Engineering program.

After much consideration and careful deliberation, Joseph’s respect for higher education ultimately led him to decline the job offers and pursue his engineering degree in Thunder Bay. “I owe all the great opportunities and the friends I have made to my education. Education blessed me with the ability to live and work in places I didn’t even think were options to me,” he says.

The desire to communicate the importance of an education to his son through example also tremendously influenced his decision, he adds. Joseph will complete his degree in 2014.

When it comes to accomplishing your professional goals, Joseph says, “Do plenty of research and educate yourself about the industry you’re pursuing as there are more opportunities out there than you know.” Having the right information can truly empower you when it comes to your career.

So the next time you’re crumbling under the pressures of school or you feel like all of your efforts are aimless, remember these words from Joseph: “There will always be tough times and sacrifices to be made, but in the long run, you’ll be thankful for all the work you put into it,” he says. “You’ll come out with some great stories to tell and have made some great friends in the process.”

Would you turn down your dream job to pursue further education? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!

Aboriginal Careers Week featuring PwC and BHP Billiton

Photo credit: Matt Mechtley

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