Serious workplace injury leads to retraining and a new career focus in engineering drafting and design technology

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More than a decade after a workplace injury put a sudden halt on his career as a welder,
Jeremy Still is making a major life transition to a career in engineering design and
drafting technology. The Regina man, who describes himself as an active person by
nature, was left unable to walk, stand or lift without difficulties. “It’s been a
long haul,” he admits. “I can’t do what I wanted to be doing and that’s been hard.
I’ve had to start again.”

The Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB) assessed Still and sent him for retraining for
work that he can do while seated, which meant first obtaining his grade 12 equivalency.
“I had my grade 10,” he says, “so I needed to upgrade before I could start any further
education.” The former welder completed that credential at Saskatchewan Polytechnic,
then met with career counsellors at Regina campus to explore his options and get advice
on what program might suit his skill set, interests and personality.

“I was a welder since high school,” reflects Still, “and it’s what I enjoyed doing.
Leaving that behind was difficult. The career counsellors at Sask Polytech gave me
some advice and the Engineering Design and Drafting Technology program seemed like a good fit. In some ways it’s similar to welding as it requires puzzling
things out, figuring out to make them work best.”

“Jeremy has been an excellent student even if he hasn’t always been sure of himself,”
says Kaya Forest who, as program head, has been following his academic journey. “It’s
taken a while to help him know that he is more than capable. He’s an extremely proactive
person who asks a lot of up-front questions and that helps him find success as he
works through his courses and projects.”

The program is normally completed over three years, but Still’s medical needs made
part-time learning over a four-year period more realistic. “I have one semester to
go and it’ll be great to be done,” he says. “My instructors have been really helpful
and understanding about my medical appointments.”

Engineering Design and Drafting Technology includes three co-operative education work terms. Still recently completed one term with Vale Industries in Indian Head,
where he has been drafting and working on designs for industrial equipment used in
the agriculture, and mining and quarrying industries. “The hardest change has been
sitting all the time, but that’s what works for me,” he says. “Co-op has been a really
good experience. They’ve been teaching me lots and they treat me like someone who
works there. It’s been hard but good. It’s a steep learning curve.” He can graduate
in April with one work term or chose to complete a second work term to receive the
co-op education designation on his diploma.

Chris Dickson, who supervised Still at Vale Industries, says that like most new employees
Still was inexperienced when he started: “Jeremy caught on very quickly, though. Because
of his background, he understands the actual building of things on a welding floor.
He’s got practical knowledge and looks at things differently. One of the things we
came to appreciate about Jeremy is that he doesn’t overthink and overengineer things.”

Dickson, who shifted his career trajectory almost two decades ago from a financial
sector background to a more hands-on path, joined Vale Industries and progressively
navigated through almost every department. “I eventually took training in Inventor
software and transitioned out of the shop to focus on engineering design, so I know
what it’s like to go from the operational side of things to the planning and conceptual
side.”

“I can tell you that it’s not always the university educated employees who offer the
most insight,” adds Dickson. “Jeremy asks a million questions and he’s caught on quicker
than guys we’ve hired with a master’s degree in engineering.”

Workplace injuries, like all of life’s unplanned events, can be challenging to recover
from—especially when the work you’ve been doing is no longer possible. Still is an
example of what resilience in the face of such a challenge looks like. “My new work
is not what I’m used to,” he admits. “But it’s what I’m going to be doing now and
I appreciate the training that’s helping me to get there.”

“Jeremy is goal oriented,” says Forest, “and he’s going to come to industry with a
solid grounding in engineering design and drafting technology plus the advantage of
a strong background in manufacturing. He’ll make a great employee for that reason—and
on top of that he’s a really good person. We’ll miss having him in the program.”

Vale Industries made Still an offer of employment at the end of his co-op work term
and hopes to bring him on board after graduation. Says Dickson, “Jeremy will be successful
in this new part of his journey. He’s shown that he’s got what it takes.”  

To learn more about Sask Polytech’s Engineering Design and Drafting Technology program
or Co-operative Education opportunities, visit our website: Engineering Design and Drafting Technology (saskpolytech.ca) Co-operative Education (saskpolytech.ca)

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