Lifelong Learning through Engagement

Looking to the future while reflecting on the past.

Written by: Jaime Smith, Executive Lead for the Centre for Employment Innovation

Jaime Smith

When I was twelve years old, I vividly remember sitting in a field of strawberries in rural New Brunswick. It was an early July morning. Our neighbor picked my brother and me up at the break of dawn in his grey half-ton truck, where we joined a slew of other local kids. “Jump in the back!” Mr. Ross would pleasantly yell.  When we arrived, dirty and laughing from the dusty, bumpy back roads, the farmer’s wife would greet us with baskets in hand and a warm smile.

As I stepped into my row in the berry field that morning, I noticed the dew sitting daintily on the plants and welcomed the smell of ripe berries. I remember thinking how hard it was to wake up at 5:30am, to slide into raggedy jeans and a weathered, red hooded sweatshirt when all I wanted to do was stay in my pajamas. I dreamed about how hard I would work in school so I could receive a scholarship for University. I envisioned a campus that would have professors and those fancy buildings made of brick with green, ivy covered walls. I looked forward to the day I could leave my small community for what I then believed would be something “bigger and better”, and I wondered if everyone in the berry field would have the same interest.

Work has been a part of my life from a young age. I continued to work through high school, through university and have not stopped since. Sometimes it was paid work. Other times, during the years I stayed home with my three young children, it was as a volunteer. Today it is a combination of both.

When I had the privilege to work for St. Francis Xavier University as the Executive Lead for the Extension Department’s Centre for Employment Innovation (CEI), I became empowered to frame my work and life experiences through the lens of career development. The role has enabled me to connect the strengths between my paid and volunteer work activities. It allowed me to value my experiences in a new way and opened an internal dialogue about the influence my environments have had on my career development. And finally, it reinforced my drive to navigate my career path with purpose.

I have always eagerly engaged in work, embracing new and changing environments. Since the early days in the berry fields of New Brunswick, a few things have remained the same: my passion for learning, my curiosity of people and my cautious optimism for the future.  What has changed? I no longer day dream just for myself; I now focus on engaging others to help them imagine and create a better future together. I would love to go back to that day in the berry field, to learn more about the lives of the other dedicated employees who worked tirelessly those hot summers. And I would love to learn more about the Ross’ farm and their commitment to providing work in our community.

Through the work of the Centre for Employment Innovation we will continue to engage with communities, employers and employment services providers across the province and further abroad to capture innovations in employment. We will seek out stories of success, convene conversations that matter and create the space for evidence and practice to collide. We will embrace diversity and foster inclusion in our approach. We will collaborate with you to create a brighter tomorrow!