University of the Fraser Valley

Coast Capital Savings steps up for UFV trades students

Coast Capital Savings steps up for UFV trades students


Emilie Biela is the Trades Navigator Student Support and Engagement at UFV.
Emilie Biela is the Trades Navigator Student Support and Engagement at UFV

Funding from Coast Capital Savings is making life easier for UFV’s Trades students.

The credit union stepped up with $75,000 that is being used in creative ways.

Part of the funding was earmarked to hire Emilie Biela as Trades Navigator Student Support and Engagement. She came on board in the spring, and a big part of her job is connecting with students and letting them know what programs and services are available through UFV and external sources.

“Oftentimes, when you’re an apprentice you get employment insurance (EI) while you’re coming to school for training,” Biela explains. “I’ll help students fill out EI applications or figure out other paperwork they may not understand. I’m here to help so students don’t have to worry about paperwork as they dive into training.”

The Coast Capital Emergency Fund to Support Students in Trades Education was also established.

“An apprentice who attends technical training receives up to 55 per cent of their normal wages and sometimes EI takes time to kick in. In addition to apprentices, we also have foundation students whose courses run from 24-39 weeks long, and unexpected costs can arise over that time,” Biela says. “In the past we’ve had students who chose going to work over going to school because they had bills to pay. The Coast Capital Fund supports students with their various needs so they can be here every day focusing on achieving their Red Seal certification.”

“I am deeply appreciative that Coast Capital chose to support Trades students and apprentices in such a tangible way,” adds Teresa Kisilevich, dean of UFV’s Faculty of Applied and Technical Studies. “We are all well aware of the financial challenges that many learners face when they choose to attend post-secondary. This funding affirms that there are organizations that truly care.”

When Biela was studying towards her Red Seal in 2014-15, she remembers classmates not showing up or dropping out altogether. She believes resources that are available now (excluding the Coast Capital Fund) were available then, but no one knew about them.

Making sure students have that awareness is vital.

“Right now, with the cost of living and the cost of transportation – we have people with mortgages and families they’re trying to provide for and being on half your wages for even a couple weeks can be really hard,” Biela says. “We know that you need to be nourished to be focused, so if you’re not getting proper food, we get you set up with the foodbank and other resources that are available.

“The goal is getting them from the start to the finish and their Red Seal certification, because they’ll have that for life. No one can take that away and it unlocks so many doors.”

Biela’s role at UFV involves visiting schools to promote a career in trades and the university’s programs, using hands-on activities and presentations to get kids excited. She’s particularly interested in motivating more women to pursue a trade. Recently, Biela took a school group on a tour through UFV’s Trades and Technology building in Chilliwack. Three girls asked her if they were physically strong enough to work in a trade.

“I said, ‘You know, I’m stronger than some guys and I’m weaker than other guys. I’m stronger than some women and weaker than some women. We’re all made differently, but we all have different skills we can bring to the table.’” Biela says. “Just because you’re a woman or an immigrant or part of a minority group that traditionally isn’t seen in the trades, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for you. Everyone should have the opportunity to build a fulfilling and rewarding life.”