Richmondite revolutionizes her life with essential skills

Wed, Sep 23, 2015

Richmond, B.C. – Some 35 years since graduating from high school, Amanda Skillin found herself back in class and looking for a change.

She first enrolled in Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s (KPU) career choices and life success program, an intense and self-reflective course designed to guide career, education and life goals. Many students come out with life-changing plans, and Skillin was no exception.

A stay-at-home mom for 23 years, she knew she wanted to assist others in a positive, possibly life-changing way. But although her high school grades had once been enough to get her accepted into the University of Toronto, they were not up to current admission requirements. Her English would need upgrading if she was to head in a new and exciting career direction.

She enrolled in a Faculty of Academic and Career Advancement’s (ACA) English course in January.

“A few weeks into the course, I learned I did not ‘need’ to take the course – I scored high enough on their English test. But I chose to continue with English,” explains Skillin, a Richmond resident. “I found I was learning so much about academic writing and fine-tuning my grammar and writing skills that I could only benefit by continuing.”

And benefit she did. In June, Skillin became an English tutor at KPU Richmond. A month later, she became a women's support worker at a transition house, an opportunity that came directly from her time at KPU, and one she says she's "incredibly fortunate" to have.

In her spare time, Skillin also sits on the board of the Co-operative Housing Federation of British Columbia, volunteers at Richmond Family Place and does advocacy work around co-operative and affordable housing.

Reading, writing and oral communication are among the nine skills the Canadian government deems essential to success in the workplace. At KPU, the Faculty of ACA ensures all learners receive the essential skills training they need to succeed in the classroom and on the job. In the weeks leading up to Essential Skills day on Sept. 25, the faculty has celebrated the successes of students like Skillin, and promoted the programming the university offers to foster such success.

“These essential skills are really an umbrella over all that we do in ACA and at KPU as we stimulate and facilitate learning with our students. We want them to be intentional about their learning and to find multiple ways to develop the skills and experiences that will make them top choice for B.C. employers,” said Patrick Donahoe, dean of ACA. “I love to watch student self-confidence grow as they make the connection between learning here, a work life beyond university and service to the community.”

Promoting and developing essential skills isn’t exclusive to ACA: this month, the Faculty of Arts hosted a speaker on the topic at its annual Explore Arts event, and the Wilson School of Design’s Designapalooza back-to-school event also incorporated essential skills.

The sixth annual Essential Skills Day is this Friday, Sept. 25. The event was created by Life Literacy Canada to raise awareness about the importance of workplace literacy and essential skills training. The nine essential skills – reading, writing, numeracy, thinking, document use, oral communication, teamwork, computer use, continuous learning – form the basic foundation for finding success in the workplace and society.

The Faculty of Academic and Career Advancement at KPU focuses on delivering programming that helps all learners master these skills and more, before pursuing additional post-secondary education, or careers in the workforce. For more information, visit

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has been serving the Metro Vancouver region since 1981, and has opened doors to success for more than 200,000 people. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs, including business, liberal arts, science, design, health, trades and technology, horticulture, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 124 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates citations and apprenticeships. Learn more at

Media contact:
Hayley Woodin
Media Specialist
t: 604.599.2883
c: 604.364.1288

For more KPU news: