The Public Relations team had a chance to sit down with Lisa Mesher (Director of Adult Education and Vocational Training), Denis Daigle (Assistant Director of Adult Education and Vocational Training) and Dave McMullen (Coordinator for Adult Education and Vocational Training) for a candid and fun interview. We learned more about how they ended up working for the school board, the challenges that Adult Education is addressing and their vision for the future!
Public Relations: This is an interesting and dynamic group! How did you three find yourselves working for the Adult Education and Vocational Training Department?
Lisa Mesher (LM): When I moved to Montreal, I worked for the Nunavik Regional Health Board and Social Services as Associate Director Module du Nord Quebecois. Growing up in Nunavik, I didn’t know much about Adult Education. I knew there were great people working here, but our programs were mainly seen as an option for dropout students, which in reality it is not. Changing the image has been important. It’s happening slowly and we are more and more perceived as a place for people who want to upgrade their skills, for adults who wish to continue their education or attend specialized trainings to just name a few!
Denis Daigle (DD): I held various positions with the school board. I started off as a teacher in 2001, went on to become school principal, coordinator for school operations and eventually was brought in as Assistant Director of the department, to help reshape and bring a new vision and direction to Adult Education.
Dave McMullen (DM): I also started as a teacher, Denis and I worked together at the same school.
PR: Oh you’ve worked together before!
DM: Yes, I taught math and science. I was a school principal and later joined the department.
PR: What are some of the challenges you experienced when first joining the team.
LM: Relationships with partners had been lost. The image we had wasn’t necessary a positive one. A lot of efforts went into understanding how we can better work with other organization at the regional and provincial levels and how we’d be able to collaborate.
DD: Yes, re-establishing the relationships that we had lost and working to a point where organizations now want to work with us and are proactively contacting us. Being recognized as an entity was a big challenge; branding the department, being visible and accessible. The Adult Education Facebook page was the first official school board presence on social media!
DM: The customer services and providing more customized training was also a challenging mandate. The first time in my role, getting on the phone with other organizations was challenging because they hadn’t heard from us in a long time.
PR: What are some big accomplishment that your team has had?
DD: Dave MacMullen and John Commins started the Futures Fair. It was an opportunity to showcase the different employment opportunity that were available in the Nunavik region.
DM: It was challenging to sell the Futures Fairs’ concept to other Nunavik organizations. We didn’t just want it to be a job fair, but an interactive event. We wanted to have presentations and workshops during the fair. The first one was a success, we had 120 people show up! That helped with the buy-in, the students were able to explore and see themselves in many different jobs we show cased.
LM: Successfully reaching out to every community in Nunavik is an accomplishment we are proud of as a department. Our goal is to provide equal opportunity when it comes to the trainings we offer. When I joined the department, smaller communities were feeling left out. It was important to make them feel valued and to include them in the programs that Adult Education provides.
DM: The HEO customized training has generated a lot of interest and positive feedback from participants as well as Nunavik employers. It has been offered for the past 4 years and has led to great partnership with different organizations. It is now a certified training and formally recognized by the Quebec Ministry of Education.
PR: What are more new projects and training the department is working on?
LM: Continuation of the community outreach is a priority. We have to focus on going deeper into identifying the needs of communities and tailoring the education services we provide to these needs. We are also working on developing our 5-year plan on general education, anchored into the school board’s 2016-2023 strategic plan.
PR: Can you share a bit about what the 5-year plan looks like?
LM: Yes, being able to offer training opportunities that are fully linked with the Nunavik job market. To find out what the market needs and to create customized training that are also certified! This is something we will be working on as part of our 5-year plan.
DM: Another important area is student retention; finding new ways to prepare our students for employment. To generate successes that can be measured into good employment rates for our former students and recent graduates.
LM: These elements are only part of the background work being done. We are continuing to be innovative and accountable to the community of Nunavik as we strive to bring them programs and trainings that matter to them.
PR: When you look back so far, what are you most proud of?
LM: There are so many moments! I’m proud about The Futures Fairs—it gave us a lot of visibility at the local level, led to great partnerships with other organizations and was truly beneficial to Nunavik as a whole.
DD: I am proud of the customized trainings we offer. We have tripled the number of projects from 2013-2018. Our visibility continues to grow as our offerings grow!
DM: One of the reasons I loved teaching was that I got to make a difference in my students’ lives. You play a small role in helping to pave their way. It’s seeing your work being appreciated and to witness that you helped someone. Even in my current role, this is what keeps me going, making a difference in creating opportunities for Nunavimmiut.
LM: It’s important to recognize the people who work with us. We are lucky to have some of the most passionate individuals working with Adult Education. We have a dedicated team and together we are making it happen!
DD: We’ve felt the trust and openness from the school board’s senior management and commissioners. We worked hard to get here and we continue to grow. The people who work in our department are ready to roll their sleeves up and we trust each other. We aren’t afraid to try new things and do things differently. Mutual trust and readiness to do the hard work are strengths of the Adult Education team.
PR: What does the next 20 years look like for Adult Education?
DD: Wow, that’s a hard question!
PR: Okay, let’s say 10 years from now!?
LM: That we will have positioned ourselves as the main provider for trainings and professional certifications offered in Nunavik. That Nunavik organizations will be coming to us to discuss how Adult Education can provide tailored trainings to suit their needs.
DD: I would like us to become the expert reference for trainings and professional certifications offered to adults in Nunavik, and to be perceived as such by other Nunavik organizations. The Adult Education department could become the main reference point for any organizations planning to run trainings in Nunavik.
DM: Beyond general education and vocational training, I would like us to increase the numbers of post-secondary trainings we facilitate or offer in Nunavik, such as college certifications and many more.
PR: Tell us a fun fact about you three!
We are all tall. Our staff refers to us as the “tall team”!
PR: Thank you, this was fun. We’re excited to see how you continue to grow and enhance the services offer to adults in Nunavik.
Team: Thank you!