Whitley Nketiah, Building Systems Engineering Technology

This daring young woman took on a program a lot of girls shy away from, won awards and had fun!

When she first came to Vanier, Whitley Nketiah, a student in Building Systems Engineering Technology, gave no hint that a few years later she’d win a regional award of $500 in the 2012 Hats Off to You! – Chapeau les filles! contest.

The annual competition, which is coordinated by the Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sport, aims at rewarding young women who choose to study in areas traditionally occupied by men. But after starting out in the Explorations program, Whitley found her place and now shines in it.

From Explorations to winning awards

“I wanted to upgrade my high school marks and take courses in math and science. I knew I wanted to study something in science, either health or engineering, but I needed to get the proper prerequisites. So I when I first came to Vanier I registered in Explorations.”

Mechanic or doctor

But how did she choose Building Systems and Engineering Technology? She laughs as she explains. “As a kid, it was between becoming a mechanic and becoming a doctor or nurse. My mum wasn’t keen on my being a mechanic so I thought about health. But then my father got cancer and I was totally turned off the idea of working in a medical setting.”

Difficulty at home

It also greatly disrupted her family life. Like many students, Whitley’s life was far from ideal, although no one around her realized the difficulties at home. “We all had to work to support the family. Although my mum and siblings were wonderfully supportive, the atmosphere at home was often unpleasant, I wouldn’t go home until late; I’d study at the train station. It was hard because I kept everything inside.”

For mother, sister and Whitley, Vanier was the obvious choice

When it came time for Whitley to choose a Cegep, Vanier was the obvious choice. “It’s close to home and my Mum and my older sister both came here. As well, Vanier offered the Explorations program which allowed me to get prerequisites I needed for the program of my choice.”

BSET allows me to help people

“I had a family friend who graduated from the BSET program and told me there were good job opportunities in that area. He advised me to speak with the coordinator of the program.

It’s a great program for me. I like helping people and I like science and math. BSET combines both. I enjoy the mechanics and pistons and motors and gauges of heating and cooling systems and I get the satisfaction of helping people by keeping them comfortable in their environment.”

No trouble being a girl in this “male dominated” program

What’s it like being a girl in a program that is dominated by men? “It’s great. Most of my friends are in the BSET program. And the guys are all very encouraging and supportive. We all go out together to movies or we have meals together. They’re more than just classmates.”

Some young women might feel unfeminine in a program like BSET. Whitley laughs as she explains, “Well in my first year I wore sweatpants and no make-up. I just wanted to be neutral. But now, I do what I want. I wear skirts when I feel like it and high heels too,” she says as she lifts her foot to show off a very stylish pair of four inch wedges heels. She adds that another girl in her class is an even bigger fashionista! “Sometimes even the guys dress up in suits and ties!”

Great teachers and a place for everyone at Vanier

What’s been the best part of Vanier? “I love my teachers! I can talk to them about anything! And I love all the great events organized by the Vanier College Students Association. They have a variety of activities that can accommodate all types of students. And I appreciated the Academic Advisors who were always there to help me when I had trouble with a schedule or with a class.”

Making the right choice

“Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Ask yourself what interests you most: science, finance and business, or social science. Those are the three big categories. See what attracts you about them. And don’t be in a rush. Explorations really helped me. It added a year to my program by it was worth it.”

Where is Whitley headed?

“I’ll be working at Enertrak a company in Laval. I’d planned on going to university but I got this job and that’s what I’m going to do for now. We’ll see what happens down the road. I’m super excited!”

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