Last fall, Chantelle Davis  (Nisga’a) started working for Aarm Dental Group. She accepted the dental reception position after graduating from the Vancouver Community College’s (VCC) Indigenous Dental Reception Coordinator Program, a program redesigned in partnership with ACCESS (Aboriginal Community Career Employment Services Society).

“I had other job offers, but I knew my worth. I wasn’t accepting anything less,” said Davis. “I now have financial freedom and am better able to support my family.” She added the support provided by VCC and ACCESS helped her be interview and career ready.

This fully-funded, nine-month Indigenous program starts with ACCESS-delivered Essential Skills that strengthen proficiencies like reading, oral communication and working with others. Essential Skills prepares students to immediately tackle course materials with the confidence to create a classroom where you feel like family.

The program was limited to 12 students and included Indigenous elements, such as setting desks in a circle and dedicating a day to cultural activities. “Cultural Friday” began with a smudge, followed by an activity like going to a gallery or on a canoe trip, or making drums and cedar hats.

“The smaller class meant that when I got distracted, VCC was able to bring me back in,” said Davis. “I’ve been in courses where there were 300 students; it was easy to fall through the cracks.” Fewer students and the flexibility to deliver the program to meet student needs enabled Michele Rosko, the program’s lead instructor, to offer individual attention.

Today, nine graduates are working, and one is on maternity leave. ACCESS Director of Programs Gary McDermott noted, “This partnership proves a course can be reformatted to Indigenous standards ensuring Indigenous Peoples succeed in the classroom and workplace.”

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