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Lekstrom retires as Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship

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DAWSON CREEK – After more than 23 years as a student, instructor, manager and dean at Northern Lights College, Jeff Lekstrom’s clearest memories are of the students.

And upon his retirement from NLC on April 27 as the Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship, it is those memories of the thousands of students he has met over the years that will stick with him.

“For the students, the College and its programs make such a difference in their lives. They are able to go out and make a good living, and support their families,” Lekstrom said. “I have had students cry after they graduated because that’s the kind of positive impact the College has had on their lives.”

Lekstrom spent 13 years as a welding instructor at NLC, and the last decade as the Manager and then Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship. He is also a graduate of the welding program at the College’s Dawson Creek Campus, where he had the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his father, who was also a welding instructor at NLC in the 1970s.

Lekstrom points to two areas where he is proudest of the growth that has occurred.

One is being able to expand trades programming. Mobile training units and shops at the Chetwynd and Fort Nelson campuses have allowed the delivery of various programs including Welding, Oil and Gas Field Operations, and Power Engineering and Gas Processing at those campuses. On-location training has been developed for First Nations, featuring programs such as Cook Training and Carpentry Foundation.

“Being able to offer these programs makes a big difference in those communities. A lot of students in those areas are not able to come to Dawson Creek or Fort St. John for training,” Lekstrom said.

The other area is the development and growth of Dual Credit programming, where high school students enrol at NLC to gain secondary and post-secondary credits while still in high school.

Lekstrom recalls that Dual Credit began 22 years ago, with an agreement between NLC and School District 59 to accommodate a student who was not doing well in high school, but who really wanted to take welding.

Since then, Dual Credit has expanded to include all trades programs, a number of vocational programs, and several University Arts and Sciences courses, and has participation from school districts throughout the College region.

“Northern Opportunities was the catalyst to bring all the school districts and industry partners together to formalize things,” said Lekstrom, who was also an original member when Northern Opportunities was founded in 2003.

After more than a decade interacting with students on a daily basis, Lekstrom recalls that the move from the classroom to the administration level was a challenge.

“The biggest adjustment as an administrator is not dealing with the students everyday. You have to realize that you can still make a difference, but at a different level, and that benefits all the instructors and the students,” Lekstrom said.

In addition to overseeing programming at NLC, Lekstrom served on various committees and boards at the regional, provincial and national levels, including being one of the original members of the Industry Training Authority Aboriginal Steering Committee.

Lekstrom is considering some international education opportunities to keep him busy after he leaves NLC. And he leaves NLC with many fond memories.

“Trades and Apprenticeships are my passion. I have gotten everything in my life I ever wanted, and more, because of Trades and Apprenticeships,” Lekstrom said. “I have had a really good career at NLC. The people, the students, have been great.”

Until a new Dean is hired, two acting associate deans – Pam Eales and Mark Heartt – will oversee the Trades and Apprenticeship division.

Jeff Beale (left), chair of the Northern
Opportunities Learning Council, presents Jeff
Lekstrom with a gift upon his retirement
from NLC.