Welder William Cripps boosts his career with help from Project Literacy

Published: Friday, September 11, 2015 by the Kelowna Daily Courier, written by Andrea Peacock

William Cripps, a welder from Ontario, moved to Kelowna in 2011 only to find that not all of his welding certificates transferred to B.C.

While he was able to get a welding job when he moved here, he was making half the wage he had been making in Ontario, he said.

When Cripps, a single father of a 13-year-old boy, got laid off after eight months, he knew he needed to go back to school.

However, in order to get into Okanagan College’s welding program, Cripps needed to improve his math skills to pass the entrance exam.

After a recommendation from a friend, Cripps discovered Project Literacy, an organization in Kelowna that provides free math and English tutoring for adults.

“I got a practice test from the college and did it at Project Literacy and I failed miserably,” said Cripps.

From there, he was matched up with a Project Literacy tutor and began getting private lessons twice a week.

“I was working every day at it,” said Cripps. “I used to stop in and pick up more papers and assignments.”

After two months of studying with Project Literacy, Cripps passed the entrance exam for his Level C welder training program with 86 per cent.

Two months after finishing that program, he went back to school to get his Level B and Level A certificates.

Before getting his A-level, Cripps went back to Project Literacy to get help with trigonometry.

He is now part of the Boilermakers Union and has been working for them since last October.

“I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for these guys,” said Cripps of the Project Literacy tutors.

About 75 per cent of people who come to Project Literacy for tutoring have employment goals, said Diana Groffen, executive director.

“Our mandate is to help adults who want to improve their English or their math skills in order to achieve their full potential at work, at home or in the community,” she said. “And we do that by matching them with volunteers.”

Project Literacy tutors are all volunteers, and the organization is run mainly on donations and grants.

“At any time, we have about 100 active tutor-learner matches,” said Groffen. “Last year, our tutors collectively donated close to 15,000 hours.”

Groffen said she hopes to raise awareness of the need for literacy support.

“At what age do we no longer deserve free, or at least subsidized, education?”