The moment Bill Chivers knew his life would never be the same came with a loud snap.
“I heard it pop, I knew it right there,” he says. “I was reaching in to get a case. It was one of those ones where you had to dig deep, move ten, grab the one in the back corner, lift it up, pull it out.”
Rearranging cases of soda was something Bill had done dozens of times a day for two decades at his job as a truck driver, but this time: “All of a sudden, the snap.”
His shoulder would never be the same after that fateful moment, and Bill’s bicep was also completely detached in the accident.
“They had to post that back on,” he says, imitating the critical motion with his arm to elicit an audible grinding pop.
After surgery Bill went back to work, but pain came just from moving the steering wheel of his truck.
Sixteen months later, he couldn’t bear it anymore, and Bill had to leave the driving job he had held and loved for almost 20 years.
Looking back, it seemed unlikely to Bill that he would land where he is today.
After two years of what he calls “a roller coaster” of pain, psychological struggle, and therapy, the mid-forties former truck driver found a second chance.
Bill was nudged by his WorkSafeBC case workers to retrain in the six-month Applied Business Technology (ABT) program at UFV.
He was finally physically well enough to give the classroom a try, so the 48-year-old found himself at a desk in the UFV Clearbrook Centre ready to start a career again from scratch.
“I didn’t even know how to turn a computer on before,” Bill says. “I didn’t have a clue.”
But UFV is positioned to help people transform their lives.
Motivated to learn whatever it took to enter ABT and get on the path to working again, Bill started learning word processing and spreadsheet software through courses in UFV’s Upgrading and University Preparation department (UUP).
At this point, it was more pride than financial need that inspired Bill. He would ask himself, “What do I have left physically? What do I have left mentally?”
“The man is incredibly tenacious and also just so open to the change that was going to be needed in his professional life,” says Christine Nehring, ABT program head. “He was so open to what that could be. He was like: ‘You know what? I want to work, I want to enjoy what I do, and I’m open to whatever that is.’ He had a really great attitude.”
Bill was one of a number of mid-career students in the program working with a group of young early-career students, and he has fond memories of the two demographics helping each other out — life experience of the older group in exchange for the innate computer skills of his children’s generation.
But despite success in the program, Bill’s injury reminded him that not everything would be easy.
One requirement to receive the ABT certificate is a 40-words-per-minute typing rate. However Bill’s body wasn’t cooperating, protesting against the longer stretches of keyboarding drills.
Consultation with UFV’s Centre for Accessibility Services and help from an external organization allowed Bill to adapt.
The resulting use of speech recognition software was a first for ABT according to Nehring, and it helped Bill tick the requisite keyboarding box and finish his biggest challenge of the program.
That innovation has made her team more aware of the possibilities with speech recognition technology for future students.
“ABT is not the optimal program for everybody,” she says. “But certainly a physical disability like what Bill was faced with is not insurmountable in the program. Especially with his attitude.”
He compares that time to his new role at Integra Adhesives, where he has been a customer service representative since September.
“There are no two days alike in that place,” Bill says. He facilitates orders for customers around North America, getting product to them as quickly as possible and putting out any fires along the way.
Every day he applies the skills he learned in the ABT program, and he is even gaining experience in bookkeeping — his favourite course at UFV.
“I want more, I’m driven to learn more now,” he says.
Bill says he counts himself lucky he’s been given a second opportunity at a career, and feels at home at
Integra Adhesives with his new team.
The feeling is mutual.
“Bill has been a great addition to our customer service team,” says Barb Sawchuk, his supervisor at Integra. “His creativity and enthusiasm along with his positive attitude and superior office skills make Bill a natural fit for our department. We’re very happy to have him on our team.”
Bill has come a long way from an injury that ended one career and sent him on a rollercoaster ride to another.
“This is the safest thing for me right now, working in an office,” he says. “Physically and mentally, you don’t want to go to those places again. Dark times.”
He takes each day as it comes and enjoys the frequent, small successes at his new job.
And each one of those incremental professional wins are driving the success of Bill Chivers, former trucker, as he delivers on his promise to rebuild his career, with help from UFV along the road to reinvention.