Alumni Profiles

Motor masters: Father-and-son Automotive grads expand family business into Winnipeg

July 10, 2018 • Written by

Mario and Matthew Silva, Hi-Tech Automotive

He doesn’t quite have engine oil flowing through his veins, but Hi-Tech Automotive service manager Matthew Silva does have a blood-bond with the business. So much so that he likes to joke that his start date is the same as the one on his birth certificate.

“Everybody asks, ‘How long have you been working in a shop?’ and since I’m 28, I say, ‘Well, 28 years and they kinda look at me funny,” he says.

Matthew’s dad, Mario Silva, has been in the auto repair business since he graduated in 1989 from Red River College’s Apprentice Motor Vehicle Mechanic program (now Automotive Technician) with his Red Seal certification. For the past 24 years, he’s owned and operated Hi-Tech Automotive in Thompson, where Matthew, a 2017 graduate of the same RRC program, spent a lot of quality time as a child playing in the fenced compound out back.

“The compound was almost a little circle and I had a little snowmobile and I would ride for hours and hours. [My dad] never really had to get a babysitter because he’d just bring me to work and I would do my own thing in the back and check on what my Dad and the guys were doing – seeing and learning” Matthew says.

“From such a young age, I saw first-hand my dad’s work ethic and the fact that he is always willing to do what it takes to get it done the right way, no matter what.”

Always a good student, Matthew says his high school teachers encouraged him to go to university rather than take up a trade, but he found that jobs were scarce in his preferred field — designing snowmobiles and other recreational vehicles — and that he would have had to move away from home and family to pursue those interests.

“If I’d have known then what I know now, I would have gone to Red River College immediately,” Matthew says. “The hands-on and the actual applicable knowledge that the instructors had was amazing to me. I found tremendous respect for every single instructor I had there. They’ve definitely been there, done that — you ask them a question, they’ve come across it.”  Read More →

Programmed to succeed: Information Technology a family affair for trio of RRC grads

June 13, 2018 • Written by

Heather & Stu Charles, BIT Block Party, 2018Talking to computers wasn’t a completely foreign concept when Stu and Heather Charles entered Red River College’s Computer Analyst Programmer (CAP) program in 1977.

Almost everyone was familiar with the phrase, “Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

The CAP program, now Business Information Technology (BIT), had debuted in 1968, the same year 2001: A Space Odyssey introduced the HAL 9000 computer. But when Stu and Heather first met at RRC a decade later, programming languages like COBOL and Assembler were still mystifying to most people.

“Going to school, when people asked, ‘What do you do?’ we had to think of a term to use,” Heather says. “You couldn’t say, ‘Oh we code in Assembler and we use Hexadecimal.’ It was, ‘We write computer programs.’ What’s that? ‘It’s how you talk to a computer.’ ”

Flash forward four decades and the Charles family is still ahead of the computer literacy curve, particularly since Stu and Heather’s daughter Nyssa Charles, 29, graduated in 2012 from BIT with a major in application development.

“We actually have dinner conversations between the three of us that are fairly technical,” Heather says. “So if you were a layperson beside us you probably still wouldn’t understand necessarily what we’re talking about.”

Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds since CAP students wrote programs on punch cards that are considered vintage today. Stu, a 1979 grad, recalls that one assignment was infamous for how frequently students dropped their stacks of meticulously ordered cards.

The evolution was already well underway in 1980. When Heather, a 1981 grad, returned to RRC after taking a year off to explore other career options, the punch card system had been replaced with brand-new Hewlett Packard computer terminals.

“That was my first step into the new world … all the labs had the modern HP computers and we did all the development on those. So I saw that change even in that year.” Read More →

Building a history: Carpentry grad lays foundation for career in home construction

May 16, 2018 • Written by

Charissa Bruce, 2018When it comes to achieving career satisfaction, you could say Red River College grad Charissa Bruce really nailed it.

At 26, Bruce is a construction site superintendent for Qualico’s StreetSide Developments. A Red Seal carpenter, she started out as a labourer in 2011, after graduating from RRC’s five-month Carpentry pre-employment program. Over the next five years, she worked her way through four apprenticeship levels, periodically returning to RRC for technical training after gaining the required hours of on-the-job experience.

“I think it’s a great program,” says Bruce. “The way the apprenticeship program is run is better than spending four years in school with no practical experience whatsoever.”

Bruce didn’t have to wear out a lot of shoe leather to land her first job at StreetSide, although she did log plenty of roadwork.

“I rode around on my bicycle and at any type of construction site, I would hand out my resume,” she recalls.

“I lived in St. James so I started there, but one day I specifically remember I said, ‘OK you know what, I’m going to bike to the south,’ to the new home area because Bridgwater was just starting up at that point. So I biked all the way out there and stopped in at a StreetSide site.”

Bruce dropped off her resume at a handful of home construction sites in Bridgwater Forest, and StreetSide called her back to work on its townhome condominium project at 15 Bridgeland Dr.

She says Qualico has supported both her career and personal growth over the years, but success wasn’t handed to her. First, she was handed a broom and put on clean-up duty.

“I was always very curious so I’d quickly finish my sweeping or picking up garbage and then I’d go find a trade, any trade I could find, and just ask them what they were doing, how were they doing it and eventually some of them started letting me base closets and stuff like that.” Read More →

Instrumentation grad named highest-achieving new journeyperson

May 10, 2018 • Written by

Justin Gaudry 2018A Red River College grad is making industry waves, having been named the highest-achieving new journeyperson in the field of Instrumentation and Control Technician.

Justin Gaudry, who graduated from RRC’s Instrumentation and Control Engineering Technology program in 2014, was deemed best in his trade last month based on a range of criteria, including on-the-job performance, classroom accomplishments, certification exam results and recognition from employers.

Now an employee of Lakeside Process Controls, where he’s worked since January 2015, Gaudry was formally recognized for his achievements at an April 19 ceremony hosted by Apprenticeship Manitoba and the Apprenticeship and Certification Board.

“It’s exciting to know that industry leaders are appreciating what I’m doing,” says Gaudry (shown above), who first entered RRC’s Electrical Engineering Technology (EET) program so he could learn to repair his guitar amps.

A longtime axe-slinger — whose most memorable on-stage moment was being chosen to accompany TV’s Bubbles at a Trailer Park Boys Live show in 2008 — Gaudry says he had little knowledge of Instrumentation as a second-year option when he enrolled.

“But after the first year of EET, Instrumentation made the most sense,” he explains. “There were perks — you get to travel and make good money. There’s also a certain element of mystery to it, because not many people know what Instrumentation is.” Read More →

Extremely proud and incredibly close: Construction Management grad builds new career on campus

April 6, 2018 • Written by

Most Red River College grads want to go far. Almost three years after earning a Bachelor of Technology in RRC’s Construction Management degree program, Josh Wells has barely gone beyond the parking lot.

Not that his career has stalled. Now a project superintendent, 24-year-old Wells got off to a running start, locking down a job with Akman Construction in 2015, working on RRC’s new Skilled Trades and Technology Centre (STTC) at the southeast corner of the Notre Dame Campus.

“I got the opportunity to work with Ken Harasym, who is regarded as the best superintendent in the Prairies — for sure in the city — so that was obviously an attractive offer,” Wells says.

“The company itself is highly, highly regarded in the city and I just thought it would be a wasted opportunity if I didn’t work for this company.”

Recently, Wells began running his own job site as project superintendent on RRC’s new MotiveLab, a 3,000-square-foot research facility for heavy vehicles.

Wells credits his father John Wells, who is president of Crosier Kilgour & Partners consulting structural engineers, for helping him get his foot in the door at Akman, and for stoking his interest in construction in the first place.

“It kind of started with Take Our Kids to Work Day in Grade 9. I got to see what my dad did for a living,” he says.

“We spent the first half of the day in the office and then the second half of the day we went out and visited job sites, and the part that stuck with me was the job-site aspect of it — being outside, being on the job site and actually constructing the building.”

His high school guidance counsellor at Westwood Collegiate sealed the deal by pointing him to the RRC program.

“She said, ‘You can get this degree at Red River College for construction management.’ It’s not a certificate; it’s not a diploma; it’s an actual degree, and that was really attractive to me.”  Read More →

Hero worship: Graphic Design grad honours departed Can-rock icon

March 14, 2018 • Written by

Graphic Design grad Adria WarrenTragically Hip frontman Gord Downie’s death affected so many Canadians in so many ways.

Fans placed wreaths, politicians gave teary tributes, and radio stations devoted endless airtime to the Hip’s decades-spanning discography.

On Oct. 17, 2017 — the day Downie peacefully passed after a battle with brain cancer — local artist and Red River College grad Adria Warren found comfort in picking up a paintbrush.

“He’s such a Canadian staple and the voice of Canada, some would say,” says Warren, a 2015 graduate of RRC’s Graphic Design program.

“I just feel like it really affected people. And when we found out he had cancer, I had actually just been touched by it pretty hard. I’d had loved ones who’d passed away, and one of my girlfriends is currently battling (cancer). So I just wanted to express this and make a difference with my art.”

Courage (painting by Adria Warren)Little did Warren know the work she would create — a piece called Courage, featuring Downie’s now-iconic feathered hat — would eventually be presented to one of those aforementioned politicians.

“I found that out and I’m still in shock,” Warren says, of learning RRC President Paul Vogt gave Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a framed print of Courage last month. Trudeau was a good friend (and fan) of Downie’s, so the College thought Warren’s painting would be a meaningful way to showcase the talent of their grads.

While Warren has yet to receive a response from the PM’s office, she can take great satisfaction in the fact that Courage has raised more than $3,000 for CancerCare Manitoba. All of the proceeds for the painting have gone directly to the charity. Read More →

The right stuff: Passion for learning drives aerospace career

March 2, 2018 • Written by

Nick Bevilacqua, Boeing Canada WinnipegNick Bevilacqua was still a few months shy of his 18th birthday when he landed a job at Boeing Canada Winnipeg in the summer of 1986. It was supposed to be temporary stop between Tec-Voc High School and college, but he soon had a better plan — one that involved a long-haul career connection.

“I was taking a part-time engineering class while I was working at Boeing, so I thought, ‘I’ll work another year and then go to college after I quit,’” he says. “Then I found out Boeing provides financial support for education and they really promote lifelong learning, and so I decided, ‘OK, I’ll just keep working here and go to school.’”

Currently Boeing’s director of business operations and government relations, Bevilacqua was among the first cohort of students who worked in the local aerospace industry while attending RRC’s Mechanical Engineering program (Aerospace option) full-time, starting in 1992. By 1996, he had completed the program, along with others required for certification with CTTAM, the Certified Technician & Technologist Association of Manitoba.

He was in the right place, at the right time. But it took some of that other right stuff to succeed — drive, determination and perseverance. During the academic year, he went to work from 6 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., and then went directly to RRC’s Notre Dame Campus.

“I’d start class at 3 p.m. and we’d go till 7 o’clock, 8 o’clock at night every day for four years,” he says. “I am so grateful for that choice that I made, even though at the time it didn’t look like there was light at the end of the tunnel.” Read More →

A ‘Smashers’ success: RRC grad turns dying demolition business into multi-million-dollar enterprise

February 15, 2018 • Written by

David Williams, Smashers DemolitionSavvy salesman David Williams knows profit potential when he sees it.

And yet, when you ask him how he managed to turn a dying demolition business into a multi-million-dollar company, he modestly credits his teachers at Red River College — even though he graduated 15 years ago.

“I’ll never forget our marketing instructor,” says Williams, a 2002 graduate of RRC’s Commerce Industry Sales and Marketing program. “He was always discussing how diversification is the wave of the future because of the different economic challenges, and [that we should] try to have different types of business revenues.”

That seemingly small pointer became the secret to Williams’ success.

Five years ago — after working as a top-level sales executive at several companies and trying his luck launching a cellphone app — Williams turned to the trades, and started working with a duct cleaning company. His co-worker’s dad had a demolition company that was going out of business, so they took care of his remaining jobs.

Within a week, Williams realized it would be far more profitable to give up the dust bunny battle and pursue demolition full-time. That’s when he realized his dream of business ownership, and founded Smashers Demolition.

As anyone who’s ever watched HGTV would know, tear-down projects often lead to safety hazards — notably mold and, in older buildings, asbestos. Given that reality — and the tip from his RRC marketing instructor — Williams diversified his company by hiring asbestos and mold experts.

Now Smashers Demolition is, he says, “the No. 1 choice out there for asbestos remediation.”

“We recognized early on that safety is a huge deal in this field, and there were virtually no companies that were COR (certificate of recognition) certified in safety and asbestos,” Williams says. “We became COR certified in 2015 … That was a pivotal point. I’m pretty sure we doubled our sales when we got COR certified.” Read More →

Haute properties: Chef brings new life to iconic locations

January 19, 2018 • Written by

Norm Pastorin, Cornerstone Bar & RestaurantLocal foodies can thank the humble hot dog for leading Chef Norman Pastorin to a career in haute cuisine.

The 2002 Culinary Arts grad is head chef and co-owner of two top eateries in iconic Winnipeg locations: The Cornerstone Bar & Restaurant at the former Papa George’s site in Osborne Village, and The Grove Pub & Restaurant, once home to Tubby’s Pizza on Stafford Street.

But Pastorin was on a different career path when he found his calling in 1999, while in the Philippines working for an uncle’s marketing firm.

“One of our accounts was this food company, and their biggest seller was hot dogs,” he explains.

The company had its own food lab and hired students from the Centre for Culinary Arts of Manila to come up with new ways to present hot dogs to home cooks.

“I made a few trips to the food lab and was hanging out with the culinary students and I found that to be more interesting than what I was doing. I was like, ‘Wow, I think I want to give this a shot,’ and I just dropped everything and moved back to Winnipeg. I had a house here, and decided just to take a chance and enrolled in Culinary Arts,” he says.

“It was the best thing I ever decided to do. It just changed my life for the better.”

A University of Manitoba Bachelor of Commerce (honours) grad, Pastorin says he was late to the culinary table, but he kicked off his career on a fast track, working under acclaimed Chef Takashi Murakami at St. Charles Golf & Country Club. (Who was RRC’s Honorary Diploma recipient in 2011.)

“I did both of my co-ops there just because I was really growing at an accelerated rate, which was what I wanted because I believe I was 26 when I enrolled in Culinary Arts and all my peers and colleagues were like 18, 19, 20, so I really felt I needed to get a really good start.” Read More →

The more, the merrier: Culinary grad pens cookbook with tips for feeding crowds

November 24, 2017 • Written by

Continuing Education instructor Sharon StewardSharon Steward’s cooking is a real crowd-pleaser — and her new cookbook is sure to be, too.

A Continuing Education instructor at Red River College, Steward is busy prepping for the launch of Volume: Cooking for a Community on Sat., Dec. 2, at McNally Robinson Booksellers.

The book is inspired by Steward’s role as the kitchen manager and head chef at InterVarsity Pioneer Camp Manitoba, a Christian summer camp located on MacKinnon Island at the north end of Shoal Lake.

During camp season, Steward and her staff are responsible for serving three meals a day (plus snacks) to anywhere from 180 to 200 people at a time. Suffice it to say, she knows how to cook for a crowd.

Cover art: Volume — Cooking for a Community“Each recipe in the book has an amount for four to six people, and then also for about 80 servings,” Steward explains. “It’s a very exciting tool — one I’m hoping a lot of other places, facilities and individuals can use to help them serve their communities.

“(Given) the types of food service people do, people cooking in their community centre or their monthly church meetings or in athletic groups, this book has huge potential and there really isn’t a current resource like it.”

Steward graduated from RRC’s Culinary Arts program in 2002. Prior to enrolling, she worked at the Wildgrass Café on Pembina Highway and Bread & Circuses Bakery Café off Corydon Avenue.

She first became interested in cooking as a young child, growing up on a grain farm between the towns of Oak Bluff and Sanford, Man.

“Cooking and baking from scratch was a very natural and common part of our everyday life,” Steward says. “I have many memories of my mom and I packing up meals and taking them out to the field. We’d take a table and chairs out, and set up a full picnic on the back of the pickup truck.” Read More →

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