TRURO – A former Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) student says her inability to find a job in the equine industry is, in part, the fault of the college.
Melissa Companion, 23, lives in Halifax. She graduated from the business management - equine program at the NSAC, now known as the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus, two years ago, but other than summer jobs in stables and an apprenticeship in Halifax, she hasn’t had any success in her field.
“I had a lot of fun and met industry professionals (at NSAC) but to learn these skills and not be able to continue (in the industry) and to have debt - $40,000 in a line of credit - and no job leaves me disappointed,” Companion told the Truro Daily News.
Companion admitted there are no guarantees getting into a specific industry after graduation, but she contends her education was “subpar.”
“The program did not realistically prepare usto run our own successful business let alone provide the proper skills to gain full-time employment in the equine or agricultural industry,” Companion said in a letter to her former college, which she shared with the Truro Daily News.
“It was not a good education. Some instructors were part time and … I spent three years making a business plan that (instructors) said was great. But it was completely unrealistic in real life,” Companion, who has a job renovating apartments, also told this paper.
Gillian Fraser, Dalhousie Agricultural Campus’s co-ordinator of diplomas and business management program, said it’s disappointing Companion feels that way because the former NSAC, now Dal AC, offers appropriate education.
“We give solid business education … just because you have a good idea (business plan) doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. There are no guarantees,” Fraser said.
She added the equine industry is “not large” in Nova Scotia and a person needs “an entrepreneurial edge from business owners” to get into niche markets.
Fraser also clarified a misconception that the equine program is dissolving at Dal AC.
“No, it’s not cancelled. We have about 10 new enrolments in the fall,” she said.
That issue came up when Companion contacted her former college via letter to state her dissatisfaction with her education and concern the program was ending because it could impact her qualifications in the eyes of the industry if the program was eliminated. Companion believed a survey to former graduates meant it was on the chopping block. Fraser, however, said the university is mandated to do routine reviews of programs to make sure they are “on track and for their quality and integrity.”
Furthermore, she said, “as a result of our survey, we have learned that many of our past students are still actively involved within the equine industry … some are working outside of the equine industry, but the majority of students have indicated that their business diploma has assisted them in gaining employment post-graduation …”
As for Companion, she said she has spoken to banks and consultants “but the finances are not there” to begin her own business.
Going forward, Companion isn’t sure what she will do, however, she may relocate.
“I thought about going to P.E.I. and starting my own farm. The land is cheaper and I have family there,” she said.