Skills Training Offers a Hand Up

Skills Training Offers a Hand Up

As a telecommunications call centre customer service representative, Dan Dakin spent hours answering questions and solving issues for clients. However, the result of all those long hours sitting at a desk translated into an aching back. Seeking relief, Dakin visited a registered massage therapist (RMT). Curious about the role of an RMT, he asked the therapist if she enjoyed her work.

The response was that she couldn’t imagine doing anything else. She liked working independently and one-on-one with a patient to solve one situation at a time.

Dakin remembers thinking that the RMT’s position was similar to what he did at the call centre.

“You’re talking to one person and solving one problem at a time. The only thing different was that in massage, you’re not sitting all the time.”

Little did Dakin know then that this realization would change his life for the better.

Embracing Change

After 17 years in the telecommunications field, Dakin found himself unemployed in his mid-40s, after the Kelowna telecom company he worked for moved his department to another city.

On employment insurance (EI), Dakin looked for work for close to a year, and with his EI benefits about to expire, someone recommended that he look into retraining.

“I thought my best chance of getting employment in my field was trading in on my experience. However, it wasn’t what employers were looking for, and I couldn’t get an interview. My hard skills were proprietary in that they were unique to the work I did before. I couldn’t take my skills to another company that had specific computer requirements, and I thought I’d have to upgrade my PC skills,” explains Dakin.

Dakin visited both the WorkBC Vernon Centre and Okanagan College for help.

Along with the self-serve job resource centre, WorkBC provides a wide range of programs that help unemployed individuals, including one-to-one employment counselling, workshops, and more.

Teamed with Work BC Employment Counsellor Aram Schneider, Dakin also spoke with the then career advisor at Okanagan College to find out what programs supported his background in technical support. However, after some discussion, the advisor told Dakin to push pause on his search.

 “The college advisor told me that I should think outside the box and at other fields that I may be interested in. I went away, unsure what I was going to do. Then I remembered the conversation I had with the RMT. I knew then I had a desire to do something different to leverage my experience as a technical support representative,” Dakin says, adding, “My sister is a nurse. My dad was a paramedic, and my mom was a medical office assistant and a first-aid attendant, so it made sense that I would get into health care. What encouraged me to do this was my sister, who went back to school in her mid-40s to become an RN (registered nurse)”

A Hand Up

Wanting to learn more about the industry, Dakin called the Okanagan Valley College of Massage Therapy (OVCMT) and arranged a tour of the Vernon facility. He also underwent a two-day career exploration workshop that the OVCMT provides to all potential students so that they know exactly what’s involved in order to become an RMT.

“Massage is one of those things that gets glamorized, but it’s not the reality. The OVCMT workshop helped us understand that the job involves a lot of study and hard work. One of the things the college did was to pair us up with strangers to show us that we don’t get to choose who we work with. They also placed a bunch of textbooks on a table and said we would have to study from each one,” Dakin says.

With this step done, Dan also went back to WorkBC to continue the process and take workshops to help him explore skills training further.

“We did more career exploration to make sure I had the right aptitudes to be successful in the field and that I wasn’t barking up the wrong tree. I did a lot of research and interviewed RMTs and the people who employ them. It was hard as many of them are self-employed, but I found a few employers in Kelowna and Vernon and had some good interviews. I ended up doing more research than what they asked for,” says Dakin

After checking all the boxes, Dakin received funding for part of his tuition, textbooks, a massage table, and a modest living allowance.

At Ease

After finishing the two-year OVCMT program, Dakin passed his board exams to become an RMT in early 2019. Now working as a massage therapist in Vernon, Dakin says he made the right decision to change his career path altogether.

“I am very happy in my new career. It’s a good fit for me, physically and mentally. I like the self-care aspect that is involved, as you have to keep yourself healthy to do this job. I am also learning how important it is to make people feel comfortable and to create a safe space that is conducive to their healing.”

If you or someone you know is facing a barrier to finding meaningful work, see how the WorkBC Vernon Centre can help.  Learn more by calling 250-545-2215 or visit us at