Students Learn Employment Skills on the Job


Mount Royal’s Transitional Vocational Program (TVP) is celebrating 35 years of fostering personal, professional and academic growth for adults with developmental disabilities.

TVP Manager Craig Baskett says, “The Employment Preparation Certificate is a 12-month employment preparation program where we support students to find and maintain jobs. Before they come to us, they often struggle to maintain and flourish at work. With the support of our program, students experience much higher rates of employment success — often maintaining jobs for many years.”

The students spend 300 classroom hours learning about work preparation, life skills, and literacy and computer skills. They then go out on work practicums to apply their knowledge and skills on a work site with the support of an Employment Specialist.

We had the opportunity recently to speak with two TVP students on the job.

Michaela Wasyliw started the program in September 2014, finishing up a three-month placement at the Shoppers Drug Mart in southeast Calgary in January.


Michaela was working as a merchandiser, putting stock away and putting out promotional shelf talkers to promote specific products. “I have transferable skills to help me get a new job,” Michaela says. “I hope I will get a good recommendation from Antonina.”

Antonina Riserbato was Michaela’s manager at Shoppers Drug Mart. Antonina has provided work placements for several TVP students over the past 7 years.

“It’s such an honour to work with these students,” she says. “I love to see them grow. I feel so happy working to build them up from start to end. I think, I took part in that. I taught someone from the beginning.”

Michaela Wasyliw with TVP Employment Specialist Myles Kelly
Michaela Wasyliw with TVP Employment Specialist Myles Kelly

“Michaela is a sweetheart,” Antonina says. “She has retail in her! She grasped the basics quickly and took such pride in finishing on a set timeline. She’d say, ‘See, Antonina, I told you I’d be able to do it.’ I have no issues in recommending her for another Shoppers Drug Mart.”

“My goal for this year for work is to learn more about how to do planograms and I want to learn cashier,” Michaela says. “And I want to save on a trip to Disneyland with my friends. I want to one day move out on my own and want to save up for my own car and I want to have a family soon.”

Nick Keene with manager Jason Bucholz
Manager Jason Bucholz with Nick Keene

We also spoke with Nick Keene at the Mr. Lube location in southeast Calgary, where he has been working for a year with manager Jason Bucholz.

Nick completed the TVP program in 2014. He loves being around cars. “Right now I’m greeting everyone that rolls up but I’m looking towards going downstairs and being underneath the vehicles,” he says. “It’s a busy store, but it’s a really good job. The people here are great.”

To become a Lower Technician, Nick would undergo on-the-job training. “It’s a bit of online stuff and it’s more on the floor as well,” he says.

“We love Nick’s enthusiasm for cars,” says manager Jason. “But sometimes we have to remind him to focus on the job he has right now.” This includes informing customers of estimated wait times and writing up the information on a schedule.

Nick’s favourite part of the TVP program was “learning to do things in the workforce and how it really is, that kind of thing. There were a few things that I didn’t know that I know now. Like, interviews are little more than I thought they were,” he notes.

Since it began in 1980, MRU’s Transitional Vocational Program has helped hundreds of adults with developmental disabilities enter the work force, make meaningful contributions and realize their dreams for a more independent life.

— by Karen McCarthy
— photos by Karen McCarthy

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