Ezat Haidary wering a reflective vests and safety goggles in the carpentry shop, giving a thumbs up and smiling at the camera.

Refugee finds future career path with new VIU program

November 28, 2023
Author: Eric Zimmer

Ezat Haidary shares his story

For Ezat Haidary, a brand-new program at Vancouver Island University is already having a life-changing impact.

Called Trades Pathways for Newcomers, the program launched in September and supports newcomers looking for a career in the trades by ensuring they have the skills, knowledge and supports to successfully transition into the educational programs that will get them there.

Ezat has a background in carpentry and worked as a security guard for the United Nations before being forced to flee his home country following the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan in 2021.

After receiving direct threats to his family, Ezat fled to Pakistan with his wife and two children and lived there for a year before gaining refugee status in Canada. They all arrived in Nanaimo this past spring, where he heard about the VIU program.

“I was looking for this kind of opportunity, so of course I immediately said yes,” he says.

Students get the chance to shadow the different trades offerings at VIU. Ezat decided to shadow both the automotive and carpentry program. With his previous experience and background, carpentry seemed like the perfect fit for him.

“The program makes me happy and I feel like my dreams have come true,” he says of his experience so far. “Everyone involved with the program has been really kind, supportive, and I don’t know how to thank them all.”

For program coordinator Darrell Harvey, stories like Ezat’s solidify the value of the Trades Pathways initiative.

“There are a lot of newcomers out there who have these skills, but haven’t been progressing in their careers because they have not been able to bridge into post-secondary to re-train,” says Darrell. “We’re definitely meeting a need in the community and it’s been really positive.”

A background in the field is not required to join the program, as it weaves together career and trade-specific English language training along with math and other necessary workplace skills and knowledge.

The program is tuition-free thanks to a $1-million provincial investment and is a collaboration between VIU’s trades programs and the Faculty of Academic and Career Preparation. The first cohort wraps up just before Christmas and a new one begins in January.

“The students are from a diverse range of countries, many of them refugee newcomers,” says Darrell. “These are not your typical students coming out of a high school and heading into a trades program. Most of them are mature students with families, work, childcare and other commitments that need to be accommodated if we want them to come to VIU, be successful in the program and ultimately find work in their sector.”

Darrell says it’s heartening to see the welcoming and enthusiastic response to the Trades Pathways program from instructors.

And students in the program like Ezat are already seeing benefits of this support, as he recently received his offer of admission letter into VIU’s carpentry program, beginning in January.

“I was really happy and really hopeful when I got that letter,” he says. “This is like a big ‘congratulations’ from VIU.”

Applications are now being accepted for the January Intake. If you are interested or would like more information, contact Darrell directly at Darrell.Harvey@viu.ca.

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