May 3, 2017
By James Oloo
Jennifer Grace Lafond is a Métis woman and the latest GDI Aboriginal Apprenticeship Project client to earn a Journeyperson Certification. She passed the interprovincial journeyperson cook examination earlier this month.
The interprovincial journeyperson cook exam is developed by a national committee of worker and employer representatives. To write the exam, a candidate must either successfully complete an apprenticeship training program requiring a combination of three years and 5400 hours on the job including technical training; or meet tradesperson eligibility requirements of 4.5 years, including a total of 8100 hours on the job. The pass mark is 70 percent.
Jennifer has worked as a cook and catering-business owner for many years. In early 2016, she heard from her employer that because of her Métis heritage, she could be eligible for assistance from Gabriel Dumont Institute to work towards a journeyperson certification. She soon visited Gabriel Dumont Institute Training and Employment where she met Employment Counselor Dwayne Docken. As she puts it, “Dwayne has been a fantastic person. He provided me with great information and very helpful advice. He is very encouraging and has been a great help in my journey.”
Jennifer admits that it was hard going back to school and that most of the lessons covered were new to her. But, “if you have supportive people around, have determination and work hard, things will be alright. They turned out well for me,” she said with a smile.
She credits her paternal and maternal grandmothers (one was Métis and other First Nations) for her career choice and work ethics. “I enjoy feeding people, and I’ve realized that as a cook, you are just as good as the last dish you put out. You must have passion to do the job – the preparation, presentation.” Jennifer goes on, “I learned at an early age while growing up at the farm. If you are going to do anything, give it your best. It is a good philosophy to live by.”
Jennifer noted that, “GDI gave me financial support for tuition and to buy books, which can be quite costly. They were patient with me and were always ready to provide encouragement and motivation. They had faith in me which made it easier to see myself as journeyperson cook long before I became one.”
Jennifer believes that “it helps a lot for an Indigenous person to get support from Indigenous people and organizations like GDI. There is a level of understanding and trust that is necessary to have success. That was evident in my interactions with GDI.”
Jennifer says that “being a journeyperson cook feels good.” She has recommended the GDI Aboriginal Apprenticeship Project to others. “Anything worth having needs some work and sacrifice. Go for it. Once you get your (trades) ticket, no one can take it from you.”
Asked about her future plans, Jennifer stated that she plans to continue working at her current position with the health region and may go back to school later to earn a blue seal certification. According to the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission, the Blue Seal Certificate, or Achievement in Business Competencies Program, is a credential offered to individuals with a valid Saskatchewan Journeyperson Certificate in a designated trade in Saskatchewan.
It demonstrates that a journeyperson has successfully achieved a reasonable level of business education and knowledge of various business subject areas to enable him/her further their career in the skilled trades. Congratulations Jennifer.