BCIT student Melvin Thibodeau
Melvin Thibodeau

Career and life changes can be challenging, and retired Sailor First Class Melvin Thibodeau knows this perhaps better than anyone. He started his career in the military and is now returning to post-secondary to further his skills for job-readiness in the civilian workforce.

Luckily for Melvin, he didn’t have to do it alone. The BCIT Legion Military Skills Conversion Program, along with other BCIT services and resources available for students, helped make it all possible.

Advanced placement into Global Trade and Transportation Management

After Melvin’s service in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) ended in 2016, he took a year off before taking a job at an electrical firm assembling fuel cells. Although it paid the bills, it wasn’t work that he was passionate about.

“I wasn’t really utilizing the skills I learned in the military, and ultimately I just wanted to figure out what I wanted to do,” says Melvin.

He ended up applying for a robotics program at BCIT, and although he quickly realized that was not where he wanted to further his skills, it led to a conversation with an advisor in the BCIT Legion Military Skills Conversion Program. They told him that, with his military background, he was able get credit towards his first year in the Global Trade and Transportation Management (GTTM) diploma program.

“As the Global Trade and Transportation Management program provides the fundamental skills for graduates to manage international business opportunities and the global supply chain, I thought to myself, ‘wow this is a great opportunity,’” says Melvin. “The international aspect really appealed to me too. In the military, I traveled to 36 countries, was deployed several times, and I really enjoy meeting new people and learning about different cultures.”

Get post-secondary credits for military experience

The BCIT Legion Military Skills Conversion Program helps current or former CAF members leverage the skills and knowledge learned during military service to fast-track their education. They also provide access to a range of career support services to help ease the shift from military to civilian life.

While in the GTTM program, Melvin heard about the BCIT Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program, and found out he could earn credits toward that as well. So, he eventually applied to the BCIT BBA program upon completing the GTTM program.

“In the military, I did Harassment Advisor (HA) training and took leadership courses, and the Legion program helped me apply that knowledge towards some elective courses in the Bachelor of Business Administration program,” says Melvin. “I know that by getting my BBA, it will be easier for me to move up the management ladder at companies than when compared to just my diploma.”

Because of Melvin’s military experience and credits from the GTTM program, he’ll be earning his BBA in just one additional year. “The BCIT Legion program has really helped me a lot, and I’m really thankful to them.”

Providing support for veterans transitioning to civilian life

Melvin’s career journey these past few years hasn’t been without its challenges. Becoming a full-time student later in life would be tough for anyone, let alone for a 14-year military veteran.

“It hasn’t been easy, especially as a mature student,” says Melvin. “It’s definitely taken some getting used to, adjusting to a new environment with different dynamics and expectations.”

He says he couldn’t have done it without support, both academically and personally. In particular, he credits BCIT Accessibility Services for helping him manage stress.

“They’ve been a lifesaver,” says Melvin. “I can’t explain how amazing they’ve been.”

In addition to support from the Legion program, he recognizes his BCIT instructors to have played a big role in his success. “They’ve really been here for me and have always helped me when I needed it. It means a lot.”

As a veteran, BCIT Global Trade and Transportation Management faculty Bryan Price resonates closely with Melvin’s experience in the program.

“I saw Melvin applying the discipline and leadership qualities he learned during his military service, says Bryan. “From the outset, he was motivated and curious about the course material and how it applied to business. I am very much looking forward to seeing the next steps of his journey.”

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Expanding industry connections for job-readiness

Melvin is set to complete the BBA program in May 2024 and plans to start applying for jobs beginning as early as February. Once Melvin graduates from the BCIT BBA program, he wants to work for a consulting firm in sustainability with logistics, supply chain, and international trade. He is also interested in a job related to operations or planning.

Outside of BCIT, Melvin has joined the Leaders of Tomorrow (LOT) program with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, which connects top post-secondary students with industry mentors.

“I’ve been meeting with my mentor and attending networking events, and it’s been an exciting process,” says Melvin. “I’m looking forward to entering this next stage in my journey.”

Melvin says military members or veterans considering post-secondary studies should know that it may not be easy, but it will definitely be worth it.

Entry into BCIT programs for military members

The BCIT Global Trade and Transportation Management diploma and the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree programs offer advanced placement opportunities for those who meet the eligibility requirements. Learn more about advancement placement into select BCIT programs, as well as resources and support available for (current and former) military members from the BCIT Legion Military Skills Conversion program.