How one program has helped hundreds of people handle a mid-career job switch

When Shane De Camp lost his job at a call centre for an online travel company, he felt sidelined. At first, he was mainly concerned with how he would pay his bills. But soon after, De Camp's thoughts turned to asking himself what he could do to feel more in control of his career.

In an ever-changing economy characterized by part-time or contract work and technological disruption, De Camp was now one of 2.1 million Canadians only able to find temporary work and forced to answer the same question: 'what next?'

"I knew I didn't want it to happen again," said De Camp, who decided he needed to focus on reskilling after finding out his job had been made redundant in order to become a more desirable candidate in a dynamic job market.

"Going back to school seemed like the best solution. My parents were supportive but neither had gone to post-secondary school, so attending university was an unfamiliar concept to us all."

Carving out a new career path

While De Camp knew he had to go back to school to carve himself on a different career path, he also grew anxious over sorting through course descriptions and developing a self-directed study plan on his own. De Camp also struggled through high school and had a learning disability that went undiagnosed until adulthood, which only added to his anxiety. After researching his options, however, De Camp attended a job fair where he met O’neil Edwards, the program director at Spanning the Gaps—a Ryerson University program helping adults and young people who may not have the education needed or opportunity to access post-secondary education to do so.

During De Camp's conversation with Edwards, the two talked about his goals and he was encouraged to apply to the Spanning the Gaps program. 

READ: Helping close the underemployment gap for skilled new Canadians

Each year, the program welcomes 70 students on a part time basis to complete three or more courses in subjects including foundational writing and math. Meanwhile, Edwards’s team provides full on, holistic support to help students stick to their goal.

Because he struggled through high school, De Camp's first thought when learning that he would have to take an Introduction to Writing course as part of the program was, "here we go again."

"I dreaded English in high school," explains De Camp. "But as I walked out of my first class as part of the program, my perceptions washed away. I felt reassured that I had made the right decision. My professor had a real gift and she made the content appealing."

After eight months of courses and working with his case-coordinator and an academic success facilitator, De Camp had completed the prerequisites required to apply to Ryerson University and was accepted into the International Economics and Finance program.

The challenge of a work-school-life balance  

For the next five years De Camp balanced a full course load while working 30 hours per week to pay for school. It was overwhelming at times, but De Camp knew he could turn to the team at Spanning the Gaps for advice, or for financial support through the TD Road to Success Award bursary and other financial aid services and grants available to mature students. 

Earlier this year, TD made a $1-million donation to the Spanning the Gaps program.

The donation was made through TD Bank’s corporate citizenship platform, The Ready Commitment, which is targeting $1 billion towards community giving by 2030 in four key areas, including financial security.

"Not only is this program effective in helping adult learners prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, it's providing them with tools to improve their lives today," said Norie Campbell, Group Head, Customer and Colleague Experience, TD Bank Group. "This impact goes beyond the skills they learn and is truly helping to create a more inclusive tomorrow for everyone."

De Camp now works at TD on the Marketing Analytics and Insights team and now mentors other Spanning the Gaps students.

"I am a big believer in paying it forward and giving back to the community that got me to where I am today," said De Camp. "Like me, through this program these students see that if they stick with it and work hard there's a brighter, more fulfilling future waiting for them on the other side."