Montreal Job Search Strategies Forum Report

First-Hand Experiences in the Job Market

Geneviève Vanier, Junior Engineer, BAA Company
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Geneviève Vanier introduced herself as a junior engineer in mechanics, who studied at the Polytechnique Montréal and is now part-time at the École de technologie supérieure in environmental engineering. Vanier has a neuromuscular disease that attacks the nerves, so that she has less dexterity in her extremities. She writes more slowly and has difficulty handling things in the labs. Because she is in a wheelchair, it is difficult to find housing near the school with wheelchair access.

Her first job was as a counsellor in a summer camp for children, Camp Papillon, organizing sports activities like wheelchair rugby. A National Bank scholarship contest helped her to find a summer office job in an open-minded company ready to hire people with disabilities. Her first internship was at Pratt & Whitney in Longueuil, which was hiring mechanical engineering students and already had wheelchair access. She said this internship gave her aeronautical experience and helped her to get a job with Rolls-Royce Energy Systems. Upon completion of her bachelor’s degree, she was hired as a summer intern in an engineering consultant company, BAA, and they kept her on as regular staff after the summer.

Vanier has used different job strategies in her work life. She got her first job at 18, because in high school many of the job opportunities available to her were too physical. She used the services of Carrefour jeunesse emploi, which has programs geared to people with disabilities. Career days and fairs at the university and at various companies were the most useful tools for Vanier, because they targeted her field of expertise. Many of the employment centres outside the university did not have much insight into engineering positions and how these positions might be adapted for a disability.

Vanier believes in seizing every job opportunity that presents itself, even before studies and internships. Jobs that were not necessarily related to her field of interest still provided her with experience to put on her CV. She suggested that participants turn to associations geared to their specific disabilities. These associations have the expertise to help in the search for employment.