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 →
Tragically 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.”
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 →
Nick 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 →
Savvy 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 →
Local 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 →
Last month at the College’s annual Technology Awards Reception, longtime industry partner Bird Construction launched a new scholarship that exemplifies what it means to be a proud RRC grad.
The first-ever Bird Construction Employee Red River College Alumni Scholarship for the Construction Management Degree Program was awarded to Philipe Bras, who’s currently completing his final year of studies.
Terry Jacobson (shown at right), an RRC alum and 40-year Bird Construction employee, presented the $1,000 award, along with Dom Costantini, the company’s vice-president and district manager.
The new scholarship — the fourth RRC financial award to be made possible by Bird Construction — was created to give company employees a chance to have a positive impact on the lives of College students. It will be presented each year to a student who has achieved outstanding academic success in Construction Management, and is enrolled in their final year of studies.
Bird and its staff — 60% of whom are proud RRC grads — play a vital role in fostering positive relationships with the College through long-term investments in the development of both students and programming.
Many past and current Bird employees volunteer on RRC advisory committees, and the company helps students build successful careers by facilitating project site visits and taking part in the co-operative education program each year. Read More →
Red River College, in partnership with North Forge Technology Exchange, will host a two-day UX Workshop at RRC’s ACE Project Space on Jan. 18 and 19, 2018.
The workshop facilitator, Willy Lai, is an award-winning user experience design leader with over two decades at top tech companies in Silicon Valley including Apple, Samsung, PayPal, Intuit and eBay, and tickets for his only Canadian workshop are going fast.
Just a few of the 40 participant spots are still available and the College would love to see those remaining spaces filled by RRC alumni.
For more information or to register for the event, visit: northforge.ca/uxwinnipeg2018
Sharon 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.
“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 →
Diego Vassallo got an early start on the fast-track to success.
Vassallo, the owner of KDR Homes and KDR Design Builders (Commercial) Inc., first got a taste for hands-on work as a child, learning to use miniature versions of tools set up alongside his dad’s workbench.
By the time he graduated from high school, he already had about five years of woodworking classes under his tool belt, so it was a natural choice to go directly from Maples Collegiate to Red River College. At 18, Vassallo was the youngest student in his pre-employment trades program, but he was already so advanced, he successfully challenged his first-year apprenticeship as a carpenter.
“From that point on I accelerated through the industry … I was lucky, I excelled,” he recalls.
The 46-year-old entrepreneur is still operating in high gear. The businesses he runs with his wife of 24 years, Domenica Vassallo, tackle everything from residential and commercial renovations to $1-million homes and high-profile projects including the City of Winnipeg’s new Transportation Management Centre, the St. Vital Park Pavilion, Grant Park’s MLCC and Osborne Village tapas hotspot Segovia. Read More →
Raunora Westcott’s employers allow her to balance her business career with her side gig as a competitive curler. It’s a privilege she doesn’t take for granite.
As an account manager at National Leasing, Westcott spends her days helping clients meet their commercial, agricultural and medical equipment needs. But during her off-hours, she can often be found sweeping and sliding her way down a sheet of ice as the lead on a rink skipped by Michelle Englot.
Team Englot will curl in the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings (Dec. 2 to 10 in Ottawa), where they’ll compete for the right to represent Canada at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeonchang, South Korea.
Westcott, who works from a home office, says National Leasing gives her the flexibility she needs to focus on her pursuit of Olympic gold.
“National Leasing has been really good to me,” she says. “They make sure that their employees are feeling balanced in their lives, and health and wellness is important to them.”
“They’ve always been supportive of employees and the sports they play and the activities they do, but once my team and I hit a national level where we started playing on the world tour more often, they really got behind me. They even sponsor our team.”
Westcott graduated from Red River College’s Business Administration program in 1998, and joined National Leasing that same year as a lease administrator. She says the practical and cooperative nature of the program prepared her for her eventual role at the company.
“As much as the group work was a bit of a grind — and there was a lot of group work — looking back I think that was the best experience of the whole program,” Westcott says of her time at RRC. “It prepares you for real-life experiences in sales, and in work in general. We’re negotiating all the time, we’re working with others, so I feel like that was a cornerstone of my success.” Read More →