Lakeland College is a "win, win, win" says Dale Mizera.
The 46-year-old, from Viking, Alta., hit the restart button to pursue a career in the energy sector. After attending Lakeland's Open House in 2017, he enrolled in the heavy oil power engineering program(HOPE).
In September 2018 and hit the ground running. Since then Mizera's has excelled in his first year of HOPE.
He earned a spot on the Dean's List and secured a summer placement position with Cenovus Energy after a successful practicum placement with the energy company.
The amateur curler went from curling on his hometown rink to playing for the Rustlers' Curling team at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Championships in Fredericton, NB. Mizera accomplished all of this while living in the Lloydminster campus residence and travelling more than 140 km every weekend to visit his family.
"It's been quite a year. It's crazy to describe what I fit into this past year. I've been fortunate to have this experience. I would like to thank the instructors and all support staff at Lakeland for being genuine in the care they give to their students to excel. They've all been extremely supportive.
"Thank you to my curling coaches Dusty and Chris, and the Lakeland Athletic department. Alan, for the time spent at the rink and behind the scenes with the many arrangements that were done for us this year.
"Lastly and most important, thank you to my wife Nancy and kids Michael, Sadie and Kevin for the patience and support they have given me during my time at Lakeland College," Mizera says.
In Mizera's experience, when one door closes another one opens.
He was employed with a local construction company as a carpenter from 1992-94 and completed his first-year carpentry apprenticeship at Lakeland in '94.
When that chapter closed, he partnered with his parents to operate their family grocery business, Viking IGA, for 20 years until they sold the business.
Looking for work to provide for his family, Mizera agreed to the lead hand position on a friend's grain farm, R & D Nearing Farms. One year turned into four years of working in agriculture.
He says he entertained the idea of pursuing a career in the energy sector after a friend, who is a 1st Class power engineer, explained he'd excel in the field.
"Because of my experience with some of the systems like the compressor and refrigeration systems at the grocery store, my friend said I might like the industry and do fairly well," Mizera explained.
At Lakeland, Mizera considered himself to be no different than the 'fresh out of high school' student beside him. "Age is just a number," he says. "Everyone was starting at square one."
Like any Lakeland first-year HOPE student, Mizera completed his 240 hours of steam time through a practicum placement. He says he had a great experience Cenvos Energy. Not only did they open up another summer student position for him after his three-month practicum, they also worked around his curling schedule so he could compete at nationals.
The Rustlers men's curling team finished in fifth. At nationals, Mizera's parents flew to New Brunswick to watch him play while his family watched on the big screen at home.
"When we arrived at the arena in Fredericton, we were in awe. The whole experience was flattering for a small-town team like us. I didn't feel too high strung, if anything, I was relaxed. We played the same way we've always played," he says.
Mizera says he is looking forward to his second year. By working for Cenovus in the summer, he'll be accumulating his second-year steam time. He has no clear sights on what he wants to do after graduation but would like to commit to a company long term.
"The benefits make sense to me, working hard and working my way up the ladder. I did it with my parents at the grocery store and it was a great 20 years," he says.