On the night of April 9th, 2015, I collapsed onto my couch, having finished a second day of working at a job fair that took place at the Palais des Congres de Montreal. On my face, despite my fatigue, was a smile – I greatly enjoyed working at fairs. At the time, I would occasionally work job fairs for one of my corporation’s clients, Champlain College Saint-Lambert. I even wrote a blog post about what they do. For those that didn’t read that post, here’s a quick run-down:
I worked primarily with the Recognition of Acquired Competencies (RAC) department, which fits within the realm of Continuing Education, for adults. RAC is a process that people can use to have their life and work experience recognized towards obtaining an official college certificate or diploma. If they have a significant amount of experience, Champlain can evaluate them for what they already know, and help them fill in the remaining gaps.
So anyway, that night, after collapsing on the couch, I felt motivated to write about my experiences that day. I knew I wouldn’t necessarily publish the post that night, but I wanted to make sure that the events were recorded in their freshest state possible, especially given my mood.
While I no longer work job fairs for Champlain, I felt it would still be valuable to share what I wrote back then, given the pleasure I derived from such experiences. I’ve also refined and reworked the content since then, so it should read better than it did originally. Here goes.
April 9, 2015
I’m always amazed at how much energy I derive from working almost every single shift at fairs. Every time one comes around, I secretly find myself hoping that I get to work as many time slots as possible, so I can personally be there to spread the word of RAC. You must understand: I absolutely love the concept behind RAC. It was incredibly awesome to learn that the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur had such a mechanism in place, back when I started working with Champlain in 2013. I couldn’t even believe it didn’t always exist – it seemed so logical to me. Ultimately, this meant – and still means that I derive genuine satisfaction by working alongside the RAC team, as I play a part in helping RAC change lives. Yes, RAC offers a practical, tangible product: a diploma or certificate, but what I value most is that the person is getting rightful credit for something they clearly knew all along. Why should an academic path be the only means of acquiring a diploma or certificate? If you can show what you know, then you deserve the diploma, regardless of your life path.
In this particular fair, two unique events occurred, both of which I felt were worth sharing.
When the first occurred, I was standing at the booth, re-configuring one of our laptops so it’d be ready for future visitors. Our booth was situated at the end of a row, but in such a way that it was next to the main artery that people used to navigate through the various rows of the fair. As I was finishing with the laptop, someone was walking past the booth via this artery, only to suddenly stop, and speak to me.
He noticed I had a container of paper clips on the table next to me, and asked if he could have one to help him with his papers. It was an oversight that it was out and visible, but since it would be useful to this attendee, and we rarely used them, I figured why not. I handed him the container so he could retrieve one, so he thanked me, and jokingly said “I’ll be going now” and feigned walking away with the whole container in hand, with a laugh. I laughed in suit, and joined in on his humor: “yep, take the whole set.”
After taking a single clip, he handed the container back. While he worked on clipping his papers together, I returned the container to its rightful place underneath our table, further cleaning up the desk space for future visitors. Once he had finished and put his sheets away, he casually looked up at the booth. He then proceeded to ask me what we did, but in a way that clearly showed it was an after-thought. I explained the usual things: that we recognize what people already know in a given field, and help them get diplomas that prove that knowledge. In the middle of my explanation, he noticed something crucial, and made this known out loud. I could detect that he was surprised, his interest peaked: “you have IT programs?” I smiled and quickly signaled him to come over to the front of the booth, knowing I’d have plenty to say to him. (I love talking to people about RAC services in general, but speaking to them about IT and RAC is a nice combo, given my own Computer Science background.)
The more I spoke to this person, the more we both realized that he was hands-down an amazing match for Champlain RAC’s services. He had recently moved to Canada from the States, and wanted to get Canadian credentials to help with Canadian employers. He liked both Champlain’s IT Client Support (ITCS) and Cisco (networking) services: a combo only certain candidates can do, those with strong IT support skills, and also significant networking knowledge. But, this person, in the end, ended up applying for ITCS, with plans to do Cisco after completing it. Each would reward an Attestation d’études collégiales (AEC) that would help in boosting his employability, and amusingly, as he told me, he had no idea what the fair was about, and had no reason to be there. He simply noticed people walking around with the fair’s branded bags, and figured he’d see what was going on. It’s amazing to me, how random chains of events can lead to potentially significant discoveries. If he hadn’t investigated the fair, if he hadn’t specifically wandered to our section to ask for our paper clips, and if I hadn’t been positioned perfectly for him to see our programs listed behind me… would he have ever known about RAC, a solution that he so clearly hungered for, without realizing it existed?
Another encounter really marked me that day. A man approached me with his wife, and proceeded to ask me questions about RAC’s Transport and Logistics (T&L) AEC. As usual, I jumped into the RAC pitch, and, while he seemed interested in the concept, I also got the impression through his body language that he felt it wasn’t for him. He eventually mentioned that he had heard of RAC before, and liked the concept, but that it didn’t seem right for him…. so he thanked me for my time and started leaving the booth.
As he did so, I had an impulse – I asked him where he actually heard about RAC. He explained that he was involved in a training session of some sort, and that the option was mentioned: but that it wasn’t Champlain College Saint-Lambert specifically he heard of. The way he answered, I could tell that he thought I was primarily concerned with where he heard about Champlain’s RAC services, but in reality, my question was born of genuine curiosity regarding the spread of RAC as a whole. In my work for Champlain, I’ve come to realize, along with my colleagues, that a huge factor of promoting RAC is simply sensitizing people to its existence. Once they know it exists, it’s a no-brainer – the services practically sell themselves. So in asking him this question, I genuinely wanted to know where he happened to hear about RAC, as a concept: regardless of Champlain.
Here’s what was interesting. That last question I asked kept him around talking. The more I spoke to him, the more I understood why he had tried to leave. He had the feeling that his experience was not going to be enough to satisfy RAC’s general admission requirements. Before, I didn’t know why he thought it wasn’t for him; but now, I could help. See, with RAC, people need to have a lot of experience: roughly 70% of the knowledge required to obtain a particular certificate or diploma, at least. We make this abundantly clear from the start – RAC’s not about handing out free diplomas and certificates, the person will be interviewed and tested to assess whether their experience is enough for admission. And, if they’ve acquired a lot of experience but are missing bits, it’s not necessarily a problem: we can help them fill those gaps with seminars and online resources, as long as those gaps are reasonable and proportionally sensible.
The more I spoke to him, the more I understood why he doubted his own skills. His T&L experience stemmed from working in a warehouse while in the military. It wasn’t necessarily a direct, cookie-cutter type of position, but I remembered what a colleague once told me: sometimes, people don’t realize how much they know. I even remembered editing a particular video testimonial where a T&L candidate was unsure that he knew enough, and guess what? He worked in a warehouse, also. Ultimately, while not in the most obvious of T&L roles, the candidate in the video had absorbed and done enough over the years to be considered a valid RAC candidate.
I relayed the gist of this to the military man, citing the warehouse testimonial as an example, and by the end, it seemed clear that he might very well be a valid T&L candidate. And if everything worked out, he could even technically work on T&L while in the military, over a year, and then when he was ready to return to civilian life, he’d be able to transition straight into a industry, no down time. Beautiful. The flexibility of Champlain’s RAC services certainly made this a possibility.
Now, obviously, I did not possess the authority nor the experience to 100% guarantee whether this candidate would be admitted, but I heard enough, based on my experience, to suggest that he get in contact with the T&L advisor, rather than assume he wouldn’t get in. Ultimately, his experience would be analyzed through RAC’s admissions procedure, which would include an interview from an industry professional, and a self-evaluation. In short, he didn’t really need to worry about whether he was experienced enough – the admissions procedure and the team at Champlain would sort that out one way or another.
And to think, he almost walked away thinking he wasn’t going to be good enough! Afterwards, I was really amazed at how a genuinely selfless question, born out of simple curiosity, could potentially lead to this man’s life changing for the better. When I asked, I wasn’t looking to keep him talking. I was merely curious. Yet, that random impulse on my part could have very well triggered a whole new journey. I love how the world works.