Practicum lands grad a permanent role

In another life, Danica Isherwood might have been a schoolteacher. Although teaching had been her goal after high school, the recent graduate of SFU’s Career Development Practitioner Certificate program has no regrets about pursuing a different direction. Instead, she’s now following her lifelong passion for helping others through her work as an employment placement specialist at WorkBC.

“Now that I’m in this field,” says Danica, “I feel like I’m finally where I’m supposed to be. Everything else gave me tons of experience to get here, but this is what I’m meant to do.”

Danica landed her current position at WorkBC during her practicum in the same office, two weeks before she had even finished the program. While she recognizes not everyone is fortunate enough to be hired by their practicum host, she considers the hands-on experience essential for students.

“The program is fantastic, but the practicum is so valuable that for it alone I would recommend this program over any other,” she says. “The practicum lets you see things that you don’t get to see when you’re in school—until you’re in a practical situation, you can’t see what it’s actually like.”

While Danica had no formal training in the field when she entered the SFU program, her 15-plus years of management experience counted for more than she’d expected.

“I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to fit right in,” she recalls. “I was able to speak to a lot of the stuff that I had experienced, and other people didn’t have that level of knowledge or understanding. So, I felt very lucky.”

In her previous role as a production manager, Danica had developed considerable experience in building, training and managing a diverse workforce. The program, she says, helped her formalize her knowledge and discover her focus.

Having earned her Career Development Practitioner Certificate, she has since returned to SFU and is currently enrolled in the Rehabilitation and Disability Management Certificate program, where she’s again building on her past experience to prepare for her future.

“My passion is multi-barrier clients and clients with disability,” says Danica. “My next goal is to do disability case management exclusively and then possibly customized employment and then vocational rehab—it’s a long-term plan.”

As much as she loves her chosen work, she recognizes that it’s not for everyone. “It can be difficult because you see a lot that hurts your heart—people can be very down when they’ve had some really difficult situations. Some people have faced terrible discrimination. You see a lot of people that are broken, which is hard.”

But for Danica, the rewards are more than worth any challenges: “I love helping people from different backgrounds, with different abilities, diverse abilities, and seeing them be successful in whatever it is that they are moving into.

“I love seeing people grow and move into bigger and better things in their life.”

By Kim Mah