Vocational program

Loading ice into a freezer on a day when the windchill outside has hit -33C, David Fodchuk is not the kind of employee to shirk his duty.

David Fodchuk stocks ice at the south Sobey’s store. He’s part of Red Deer College’s transitional vocational program.

David Fodchuk stocks ice at the south Sobey’s store. He’s part of Red Deer College’s transitional vocational program.

Loading ice into a freezer on a day when the windchill outside has hit -33C, David Fodchuk is not the kind of employee to shirk his duty.

If there is something to be done, he does it with a smile. If there is nothing to do, he finds something.

A graduate of the Transitional Vocational Program at Red Deer College, he now works at Sobeys on the southside of Red Deer.

Fodchuk has a developmental disability but it hasn’t slowed him down. He has gone from being a courtesy clerk at Sobeys, helping customers with their groceries, shovelling snow and collecting carts, to stocking the freezer shelves with ice cream, gluten-free products and ice. When things are slow there, he’ll help stock grocery shelves.

It’s a level of independence that likely wouldn’t have happened without a special program for people with developmental disabilities at Red Deer College. The Transitional Vocational Program has been operating at the college since 1981 and it gives students not only the skills they need to work, but also the opportunities to live a full life.

The 20 students who attend the program each year have everything from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder to autism, cerebral palsy or other unidentified conditions that have meant regular classes have been a challenge for them.

Students who are chosen for the program have their tuition, books and supplies paid for by the Skills Investment Strategy through Alberta Employment and Immigration. Those not collecting AISH also receive money for lodgings and other living costs.

For Fodchuk, the program meant moving from his family’s home in Beaumont to Red Deer and living at a townhouse near RDC. He learned what it was like to have roommates and got to explore all that Red Deer has to offer, going to hockey games, swimming at the Collicutt Centre and seeing plays.

“We really work with our students as whole people,” said Janice Findlay, program chairperson. “So as whole people, I mean we work on a number of areas beyond the employability skills.”

Now at age 22 and a couple of years out of the program, Fodchuk lives in a fourplex in Eastview, where his speciality dish is spaghetti and his team of choice is the Edmonton Oilers. He plays on a Special Olympics baseball team and curls.

The owner/operator of Sobeys south, Trevor Aslin only has good things to say about Fodchuk and the RDC program.

“I think the nicest thing about having David (Fodchuk) on staff is that he just takes ownership in what he is doing,” Aslin said.

One recent morning, Fodchuk was busily working in one of the grocery aisles. Aslin asked why he was in grocery and not the freezer department and Fodchuk said, “My ice cream order hasn’t shown up.”

Aslin was impressed that Fodchuk didn’t say his boss’s ice cream order or the store’s, but took ownership in what he was doing. “It’s nice to have people who are that motivated. They own the position so that is refreshing at any level, whether it’s the owner, the second-in-command or the general employee,” Aslin said.

He said the Transitional Vocational Program has been a good experience for the store with management learning as much about themselves and their management skills as the students have learned in the work experience positions they have done.

Findlay said the program helps students gain independence and interpersonal skills. Guest speakers come in to tell students about safety in the home and at work and talk about employment standards. Students learn about managing their finances and about cheap entertainment in town.

Each week during the 10-month program, participants spend two days in class and three days doing work experience, helping prep food at restaurants, stock shelves at stores, pre-trades, cinemas and clothing stores. The goal is for them to find paid employment by the end of the program in May.

The program also offers a wide range of night school courses for others not in the main program, looking at math and money, healthy relationships and other topics.

For Fodchuk, the program has made all the difference in him having an independent life with his many friends in the community and having a job he enjoys.

“Most of it is pretty easy now,” he said. “It’s fun. I like it.”

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced updated health measures Monday which are now in place for retail, hotels and community halls, performance groups, and youth sports as part of Step 2 of Alberta’s reopening plan. (File photo by Government of Alberta)
COVID restrictions for retail, sports and performers further eased

Occupancy in stores and malls boosted to 25 per cent from 15 per cent

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Active COVID cases in Red Deer continue to decline

249 cases in Red Deer, down from 565 peak on Feb. 22

(File photo)
Five Olds College students semi-finalists in marketing pitch competition

Winner of Second Annual UFA Student Pitch Competition to be announced April 13

Nordegg residents, including retired fisheries biologist Vance Buchwald, are concerned this kind of coal mining could start up in the wilderness area. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File).
Biologist urges Clearwater County to take a stand against Nordegg coal mining

Vance Buchwald said there’s no future in coal, the county should back eco-tourism

Quentin Lee Strawberry Photo from RCMP
Updated: Bleeding man came to door frantically calling for 911 help, neighbour testifies in murder trial

Quentin Strawberry on trial for second-degree murder accused of killing Joseph Gallant in 2019

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

A helicopter passes over excavation equipment at the Mary River exploration camp, the site of a proposed expansion to an iron mine on northern Baffin Island, on August 17, 2006. The board of the organization that represents Inuit in Nunavut's Baffin Island region says it does not support the proposed expansionnear Pond Inlet. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Vinne Karetak
Inuit group’s board says no to proposed expansion of Nunavut iron ore mine

Inuit group’s board says no to proposed expansion of Nunavut iron ore mine

A street sign along Bay Street in Toronto's financial district is shown on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Royal Bank replaces Shopify as most valuable company as TSX hits intraday high

Royal Bank replaces Shopify as most valuable company as TSX hits intraday high

Rail cars wait for pickup in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian oil and gas on trains destined for the United States — a country experts fear is ill-equipped for the potential consequences. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

As spring nears, houseplants feel it too and can get unruly

As spring nears, houseplants feel it too and can get unruly

A couple walks past a vandalized mural depicting world's first woman cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova in Madrid, Spain, Monday, March 8, 2021. At least two street murals celebrating accomplished women in politics, arts and science have appeared covered in black paint over the weekend. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Defying pandemic, feminists in Spain decry far-right attacks

Defying pandemic, feminists in Spain decry far-right attacks

Demonstrators march through downtown Minneapolis following protests near the Hennepin County Government Center, Monday, March 8, 2021, in Minneapolis where the trial for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin began with jury selection. Chauvin is charged with murder in the death of George Floyd during an arrest last May in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Fiery chants for justice from marchers at Chauvin trial

Fiery chants for justice from marchers at Chauvin trial

This image provided by The Alexandria (Va.) Sheriff's Office shows Jacob Chansley. A judge ordered corrections authorities to provide organic food to the Arizona man who is accused of participating in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol while sporting face paint, no shirt and a furry hat with horns. He was moved from the Washington jail to the Virginia facility. (Alexandria Sheriff's Office via AP)
Arizona man who wore horns in Capitol riot to remain jailed

Arizona man who wore horns in Capitol riot to remain jailed

Anti-coup protesters discharge fire extinguishers to counter the impact of the tear gas fired by police during a demonstration in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Monday, March 8, 2021. The escalation of violence in Myanmar as authorities crack down on protests against the Feb. 1 coup is raising pressure for more sanctions against the junta, even as countries struggle over how to best sway military leaders inured to global condemnation. (AP Photo)
Myanmar protesters defy curfew; media outlets ordered shut

YANGON, Myanmar — Demonstrators in Myanmar’s biggest city came out Monday night… Continue reading

Most Read