After 26 years in business, Pauline Stevenson knows all about finding a niche and changing with the times. Stevenson launched Excel Career College in 1989 in Courtenay as a computer college. Although the curriculum has expanded dramatically since then, the focus remains unchanged – providing relevant training to get people into the workforce quickly.
In the latest expansion in April 2015, Excel is opening a campus in Port Hardy offering an Aquaculture program to meet a growing demand for scallop and oyster farms in the community. The diploma program was brought to Port Hardy at the request of the Gwa’sala – ‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation and includes cultural elements such as ceremonies with elders.
“Labour market research shows the current lack of a skilled labour pool and accessible training is impeding growth in the regional aquaculture sector. Our program addresses the skilled labour needs of a growing industry through training in the latest technologies,” Stevenson explains.
In addition, Excel is expanding to Powell River this spring in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health uthority to re-train injured health care workers. The Health Care Assistant Program is also open to the general public.
Excel offers a range of business programs and has ten employees. Stevenson expects to hire about four more as a result of the recent expansion. The College’s diploma programs qualify for StudentAid BC funding.
Stevenson is proud that Excel was recently named “Professional Company of the Year” at the 2014 Vancouver Island Business Excellence Awards. In addition a former Excel Aquaculture student, Trevor Fraser, was named “2014 Outstanding Graduate of the Year” by the B.C. Career Colleges Association. Fraser, a member of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation, now works as a management trainee at Grieg Seafood in Gold River.
Stevenson is a long time member of the Courtenay Rotary Club and believes in giving back to the community. In response to the closure of the Courtenay Safeway Store, Excel offered the 120 laid off employees bursaries of up to $1,000 each toward full time training.
A Peer Mentoring Facilitator for Women’s Enterprise Centre in Courtenay, Stevenson helps other women build and maintain their businesses – a role she takes seriously. “I am so thankful for the belief and faith that was placed in me to support the launch of my business, so it seems fitting and gives me great pride to offer that to other women business owners.”