Mature project coordinator turns educational pause into career triumph

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John Paul ‘21 finished his Mohawk program nearly 20 years after he began his studies, crediting his mature student journey as one of his greatest strengths.

“I started at Mohawk in 2004,” John Paul says. “Then, I unfortunately had to leave in 2005 due to illness in the family.”

Disheartened to pause his education, John Paul pivoted his career path to retail sales, where he would work for quite some time. He regards that time as an important training ground for the functional skills he needed to grow as a person.

“15 years in the workforce tempered my weaknesses and taught me how to do what was being asked, and what to ask when I  didn't understand,” he says.

John Paul has had an affinity for buildings since he was a teenager. He discovered drafting in high school, which led him to  participate in a home design contest at Mohawk in the early 2000s. It was during his time spent in the workforce that he  rediscovered the joy of building construction once more and decided to give his education in the field one more shot.

“Unexpected life events allowed me to explore my love of buildings again.” he says. "In 2019, I decided to return to Mohawk and  complete the Architectural Technology program.”

Mohawk’s three-year, provincially accredited Architectural Technology diploma program allowed John Paul to build upon his  previous skillset and gain proper qualifications needed to excel in the construction world. He gained a combination of technical  knowledge and relevant theories that he practiced through school assignments.

Though John Paul was returning to the same program he once left behind, his outlook had completely changed. His assignments  translated to the work he wanted to pursue in the future and this transformed his approach to his educational journey.

“My return allowed me to treat my education like my occupation. The difference was striking [in how I approached my studies], and  it made the return far less daunting than I had made it in my mind prior to returning.”

Now that his view of post-secondary education had evolved, John Paul was ready be immersed in the full college experience. As  he moved through his program, he completed three different co-op placements to discern the specific path he wanted to take.

“Each co-op placement was integral to the path I am on today,” he explains. “I would not have the career that I have today if I had  not participated in the co-op program at Mohawk.”

John Paul’s first co-op taught him about the inner-workings of infrastructure and city operations. He also learned about office  etiquette during this time. His second co-op allowed him to explore estimating and his love of blueprints, and learned that not all of  his professional needs were being met there either. It wasn’t until his third co-op that John Paul found the exact career path he was meant for.

“[It] was what lead me to seek the kind of career I have at Branthaven Homes,” he says. “I was a site co-ordinator and it had the  perfect mix of computer work, blueprints interaction and site work.”

Little did John Paul know his third co-op would be strikingly similar to the role he would eventually hold at the company. Having no  prior experience overseeing construction on an active build site, John Paul got to do just that with the coordination of two towers  built in his own downtown Hamilton neighbourhood. It was truly a full-circle moment for him.

John Paul graduated from the Architectural Technology program in 2021. In early 2022, he was hired at Branthaven Homes as a  High-Rise Project Coordinator. He balances his work days between Burlington’s head office and overseeing condominium build  sites in Oakville. For him, this career feels like the exact place he should have been all along.

“The work I do is varied, novel, complex and important,” John Paul says. “I have found a workplace that appreciates the quality of  my work without always needing it to be more.”

John Paul worked hard to get his diploma and his career success shows it, but his efforts are only part of it. His support group was  imperative to forging the path he found himself on, which is something else John Paul had to approach differently as a mature  student.

“I set out to find a peer group that could help me catch up and vice versa,” John Paul says. “My soon-to-be-wife and I discussed  what my return to school meant for our relationship. My path to success in returning was forged in the support of my partner and my peers.”

To those mature students who want to return to college, whether to complete a new credential or to restart progress on a previous  one, John Paul has some well-tested advice.

“My greatest strength as a mature student is viewing education as work you do for yourself,” he explains. “Assignments are tasks  that an employer provides to be completed. This understanding made my return significantly easier than my first attempt.”