Finding his career path with VIU’s ABE program | Vancouver Island University

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It was while working a “crappy” job that Philip Lawton decided it was time to figure out what he wanted to do for a career. He thought the Adult Basic Education (ABE) program at VIU would be a good place to start.

“I’m 32 and left high school 16 years ago, so my transcripts are bit archaic to say the least, and I probably needed an upgraded anyways,” he says. “My wife had a good experience at VIU, so I knew about the program and decided to check it out.”

Philip’s long-term career goal is to be a dental hygienist and he reached out to VIU academic advisers, who helped him get started on his path. “I was nervous, but ready to go, which I think is only natural in new situations,” he says.

He took a selection of entry-level tests in subjects such as Math and English, and since enrolling has been “gradually picking away” at the courses he needs to get into the prerequisite university courses that are required for acceptance into the Dental Hygiene program. He will begin those courses this fall, with the goal of entering the Dental Hygiene program in 2026.

“It’s a long road and it’s going to be tough, but I’m very excited about it,” he says. “The ABE program couldn’t have prepared me any better to achieve my goal.”

Philip says he’s also thoroughly enjoyed the courses he’s taken.

“They’ve given me a level of academic confidence I definitely didn’t have coming out of high school,” he says. “Being able to give them a go again in this environment has really changed my perspective in a positive way, and everyone involved has been great.”

Philip says key highlights include “seeing how well I’ve done being back in the classroom, making some good friends and getting my adult diploma within one year and the sense of achievement that came with that.”

He adds that while the programs and courses can be demanding, faculty are “ready and willing to help you do what you need to do to reach your goals. There is flexibility in the program, so you can work out a schedule and routine that fits your life. Everyone’s got a different story and workload on their plate already, and faculty are happy and willing to work with that.”

For those who may be considering enrolling in the ABE program themselves, Phillip offers some advice: 

“Most people – myself included – are scared of change and the worst thing you can do for yourself is stay somewhere you’re not happy, or in a career you don’t enjoy because you’re scared to make that change. Just take the plunge.”

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