Return to school jump-starts career in building maintenance
Going to college was a huge decision for Roger Rebelo (Building Environmental Systems Operator ’21). He was 37 years old, married with two kids, and he was working full-time as a maintenance team lead at a large commercial building. A return to school, even for a year, implied additional demands on his time and resources, something he could ill-afford.
“I didn't really have much of an education as far as college goes. I had started working in construction jobs right out of high school. Everything I knew about maintenance I had learned on the job,” Rebelo says. A few years into his position as the maintenance team lead looking after the 60,000 sq.ft. premises of Bayshore Healthcare in Mississauga, he realized that without formal training and certification that would allow him to work with sophisticated equipment, his career was headed for a dead end.
On the advice of his manager, Rebelo joined Sheridan’s Building Environmental Systems Operator program, offered through the Faculty of Continuing and Professional Studies, which provides training to operate a healthy, energy-efficient, and economically viable building in any sector. Its graduates have the demonstrated ability to operate heating systems, air conditioning, refrigeration units and electrical systems. The program also trains students in air handling, preventive and corrective maintenance, and water treatment programs.
“I didn't really have much of an education as far as college goes. I had started working in construction jobs right out of high school. Everything I knew about maintenance I had learned on the job.”
“At work, we're dealing with fire safety, building inspections, equipment repair, and operating chillers and boilers. I realized that getting certified opens up more doors for me. I had all this experience working with my hands, but to have the actual education from Sheridan on the resume would show that not only can I do the work, but I also have the book smarts,” he says.
Important as it was, professional advancement wasn’t the only motivation for Rebelo to take up the program. He wanted to set an example for his children and inspire them to value education. “It was for my kids. Neither my wife nor I had studied beyond high school, and we thought that my going to college would make our kids understand the value of education and why it is important to go to college,” he says.
Once in the program, Rebelo quickly lost his earlier inhibitions. He realized that age wasn’t at all a factor in the class and many of his fellow students were equally driven by the need to upgrade their current skills and knowledge. “I found that there were a lot of people trying to do the same thing. They were in an industry where they hadn’t had the chance to get the education they needed to progress in their careers. The program offered all of us an opportunity to add to our knowledge and our pay,” he says. He also worked hard to balance school with his extremely busy life, often staying up till 2 a.m. in the morning to complete his homework.
“I realized that getting certified opens up more doors for me. I had all this experience working with my hands, but to have the actual education from Sheridan on the resume would show that not only can I do the work, but I also have the book smarts.”
Rebelo says his hands-on experience was an asset in the program. Not only did he get top grades, but he was also nominated as class valedictorian. Within months of his graduation, he was promoted as Manager, Maintenance and Facilities, breaking down the barrier that had been holding him down. He now has both Class 1 and Class 2 certification in Building Environmental Systems Operation, which qualifies him to manage the highly sophisticated systems that make a building run smoothly.
Rebelo says he has no plans to rest on his achievements and is determined to take management courses in future to progress in his career.
“My six-year-old girl saw me giving that speech as class valedictorian and said she wanted to do it too. I’m keeping that video so that when my kids are older, I can show it to them and tell them that if I could do it – go to college with a full-time job and two kids – they can do it too.”
“When you haven't gone to school, you're following someone at work who showed you how they do things. But when you go to school, they actually break it down for you, so you have more of an understanding. I have kept all my books so I can refer to them when I need to, whether it is about electricals, water treatment, heating or air conditioning. There’s a lot of the knowledge in those books, it's not something you're just going to get while working without education. Going to school really pays off,” he says.
There’s one other thing Rebelo is holding on to from Sheridan – it’s the video of his speech at convocation. “My six-year-old girl saw me giving that speech as class valedictorian and said she wanted to do it too. I’m keeping that video so that when my kids are older, I can show it to them and tell them that if I could do it – go to college with a full-time job and two kids – they can do it too.”
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