Ines Alvarado checks out a vehicle’s computer diagnostics in the VIU automotive program shop.

Nanoose First Nation mother of five takes on new challenges

Ines Alvarado earned the Lieutenant Governor or B.C.'s silver medal, awarded June 19 at VIU's convocation ceremonies

  • Jul. 9, 2015 8:00 p.m.

Ines Alvarado has a vision of one day owning her own automotive shop, where she can employ skills she’s developed in Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) Automotive Service Technician and Management programs.

Alvarado’s positive outlook along with her relentless curiousity, work ethic, and attention to detail are all characteristics observed in the automotive program graduate, her instructors say. These qualities have also earned the 33-year-old mother of five the Lieutenant Governor or British Columbia’s silver medal, awarded June 19 at VIU’s convocation ceremonies for graduates in trades and applied technology programs.

Alvarado has spent the past decade in a career with her Nanoose First Nation, where she worked her way up from secretary to financial controller. With vacation time accruing over a number of years, and with her 17-year-old daughter Mary attending classes at VIU to complete her high school education, Alvarado decided to enrol alongside her daughter and use her time off to learn and expand her skill set in the automotive program.

In keeping with her vision of owning her own business one day, she also completed courses to attain a certificate in business management, awarded to her at VIU’s June 2 convocation, as well as completing the Management Skills for Supervisors Certificate offered through VIU’s professional development and training.

“I had no experience in automotive, I just knew I liked cars,” said Alvarado. “When I came in, I had no idea what the alternator even looked like. I loved the work in the shop, and I liked working on the bigger trucks because there’s more room and you can crawl up there to work on the engine.”

Dean Cadieux, instructor and chair of the automotive program, said Alvarado excelled academically and worked hard to master the skills in the shop.

Her instructors were also impressed with her safety conscious work habits, and awarded her the Department Safety Award.

Alvarado said she wasn’t sure at first how she would fit into her all-male class, particularly in the shop, but soon found an environment where her learning flourished and her many questions were always answered.

“I would keep the instructors after hours with my questions,” she said with a laugh.

While completing two VIU programs was challenging at times for her, Alvarado and her family were simultaneously handling another serious challenge at home. Her 18-month-old son was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a heart condition that arises from improper electrical activity of the heart.

With her husband staying home with the children, and with support from VIU instructors who allowed her time away from classes to deal with her son’s hospitalizations and medical appointments, Alvarado said it was difficult to keep going at times.

Alvarado will be joined by her daughter in the French course, and expects they’ll both find it fun and challenging.

­— Submitted by VIU

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