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Student stories

First Nations student hopes to work in renewable energy

Engineering and Computer science

Jessica Bekker (Blackfoot)

Schneider Electric

Blackfoot student Jessica Bekker has a clear goal: she wants to use the skills she’s developing through UVic’s electrical engineering program to help Canada’s First Nations communities achieve energy independence. “By using renewable energies like solar power, these communities could become automomous,” she says. “I want to help them get there.”

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Jessica’s dream has given her a sense of purpose and meaning while she studies. “It was initially hard to pursue electrical engineering without a clear goal in mind,” says Jessica. “But now that I know what I want to achieve, things are really coming together.” Jessica is passionate about renewable power and thinks that First Nations communities could be “in front of the wave” in battling climate change.

As an engineering student at UVic, Jessica has complemented her classroom learning through the Co-operative Education Program, by alternating academic terms with paid work experience with real world employers. This has given her the chance to explore her strengths and develop new skills in a real work place. During the summer of 2008, she worked for Schneider Electric in Victoria, a world leader in electrical distribution, and industrial control and automation products, systems and services. As a product management assistant, Jessica produced a demo for a newly developed software program.

“At Schneider I was able to gain more knowledge about power systems, power metering and energy efficiency. In the end, my confidence grew knowing that I can be successful in a business and technical environment. Co-op gives students like me the chance to test the waters, update their résumé and earn money to pay off their student debt. I think it’s great,” says Jessica.

Jessica is excited about the future and encourages other First Nations students to find ways to give back to the Aboriginal community. She knows first-hand that life can get in the way—she took some time off school when her daughter Rachel was born, but returned to UVic after some coaxing from her husband Eric. “He pushed me to finish school,” she says. “I’m glad that I’m accomplishing something with my life. It’s a good feeling.”

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