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Post post-secondary: finding success after school

One thing always at the forefront of students’ minds is what they will do after they complete their schooling. Will they be able to find a job? Will they be successful? Has school prepared them for the realities of the workplace? 

Fortunately, it seems that SAIT grads can breathe easier about the answer to that last question. Despite tough economic times and a competitive job market, the practical skills learned in post-secondary can and will be enough to land jobs after graduation.

Khiana Tucker, a graduate of SAIT’s culinary program, found her time here valuable, and enjoyed learning about all the components of the restaurant industry, not just cooking.

“All my chefs were inspiring and amazing teachers,” she said. 

Her education and experience have usually meant that she begins new culinary jobs in a higher position than she might otherwise. 

Her feelings were shared by Nicholas Rowley, another culinary program graduate.

“The point of the instruction and training is to set you up for success, not to be a lifelong coach,” he said. 

“However, to their credit, many of the instructors do just that, and are always there for support.”

Culinary instructor Chef Michael Allemeyer is one of only five Canadian master chefs, and has been teaching at SAIT since 2009. He came to the job with 25 years of industry experience behind him. 

Allemeyer places a lot of importance on teaching employable skills, not only in the kitchen, but also critical thinking, communication, and teamwork.

“The curriculum is very relevant – we work with an industry advisory committee that is constantly reviewing the curriculum,” he added. 

Tony Penton, a current student in SAIT’s culinary entrepreneurship program, left, entertains Evan Hall, chef at SAIT’s Steven Ave. campus, and cook, Darcy at the bar in SAIT’s newly opened Tastemarket in downtown Calgary on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017.
(Photo by Rebecca Hardcastle)

Culinary students are required to do an industry practicum during their two years at SAIT, which also help when they look for jobs after graduation.  

Rowley found that his education at SAIT helped him get his first hotel job. 

“I remember applying to a hotel before I had started my education, and I didn’t even get the interview. Fast forward to after my first year of industry training, and I managed to get a job at a hotel here in Calgary.”

Taking the time to get educated and trained, no matter the subject, shows potential employers that you are interested and dedicated, which can provide an edge in competitive job markets. Education is an investment in oneself and one’s future.

“The industry has changed considerably since I first started cooking about 10 years ago,” Rowley said.

“Every cook’s motivation for doing what they do is different – it took me a number of years to mature as a professional, but also just to figure out what I want and how best to get there.”

While he admitted that his training could have done a little more to instill the importance of persevering and finding a work environment with room for growth, he would still recommend SAIT’s culinary program to aspiring chefs. 

“It’s something special, to be able to work so closely with master chefs, and to be taught the basics by chefs who are so specialized in their training and experience,” he said. The job fairs that SAIT hosts are also helpful for graduates looking for employment.

“Not everyone who goes through the program is going to be a professional cook,” admitted Allemeyer. 

Although some people definitely enter the program with that goal in mind, nutritionists, food writers, and restauranteurs looking to better understand the kitchen also enroll. Some simply take the program to learn how to cook. 

“Success doesn’t necessarily equate to having a job,” he said.

“If you’re practicing what you’ve learned, to me, that’s success.” 

Perhaps what is most important to success is a person’s attitude and commitment to their craft or trade. People who are willing to put in time and hard work, and learn from the people around them, will be more successful. 

“Some people don’t understand that sometimes it takes longer to get into the position they wanted,” said Tucker. 

“I think success is someone who deals with the bumps in the road and sticks with it.”

While the prospect of looking for work after SAIT can seem daunting, it is clear that a post-secondary education is an invaluable tool that can make a real difference in today’s competitive job markets. 

I won’t tell students not to worry – that would be a little hypocritical, after all – but the hands-on, practical experience gained at SAIT can certainly provide an edge. It’s a person’s willingness to persevere that will ultimately decide their future.

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