By Glenda McCarthy
When Brad Pilgrim accepted the position of Campus Manager for the St. Anthony campus in October 2015, it brought his decade-long professional journey full circle. Coming from a family of educators, Brad knew early-on which path would be the best fit for him.
“Both of my parents and my sister are teachers from all the different levels – primary/elementary, to junior high/high school, and my mom is a retired CNA employee. So I was kind of directed down the path, through their support, that (working at) the college would be an excellent option.”
With that in mind, Brad finished his Bachelor of Arts (English major, Sociology minor) and followed it up with a Bachelor of Education (Post-Secondary) at Memorial University.
Leaving university without any work experience, he still decided to throw his hat in the ring for a position at College of the North Atlantic-Qatar (CNA-Q).
“I walked into the CNA-Q office at Prince Philip Drive and put in my resume to go to CNA-Q in 2004. They showed me a stack of resumes of people with 10+ years of experience. They told me to come back after a few years and talk to them again,” Brad recalls.
Undeterred, he applied for every job at the college he thought he might be qualified for, submitting somewhere between 80-100 resumes.
“I started working with a company in St. John’s just to pass the time. Once, I got hired as a supervisor and instructor for staffing instructing, I was on the job for one day when a CNA position came up in St. Anthony, my hometown, for an academic trades program (Carpenter). You needed an English or communications background, so I applied,” he recalls. “I ran over to Prince Philip Drive for an interview. When I arrived back to my job, half-an-hour later my phone rang and they congratulated me on receiving the position.”
With that position starting in two weeks, Bad packed up and drove to St. Anthony for his first job at CNA. The following year he moved into a position as an instructor of Adult Basic Education, where he stayed for eight years.
“I was settled. I had a house bought, got married, we had our first child, and then had our second child. Laura (his wife) was a school teacher in the area and we were just living the day-to-day life.”
When he got the call that his position would be eliminated when the ABE program was transferred out of CNA to private institutions, he remained positive.
“St. Anthony at that time got hit hard. We lost half the staff. Initially I didn’t think much about it. It didn’t faze me. My wife kind of laughed about it. She said, ‘that’s okay, you’re out of ABE, maybe you’ll bump into communications.’ When I found out there would only be one full-time communications position in St. Anthony, the most senior person had 15 years on me.”
Still, he maintained hope that he could transfer to Corner Brook in another capacity. The final day came and there were no positions available.
“So I’m out of a job. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I didn’t panic. I don’t think I’m a panic type of person. I’m a fairly positive person and I think things happen for a reason. The funny thing about it was, a year before the cuts happened and I lost my job, Laura, who is also from St. Anthony, said, ‘I don’t want to be here doing this the rest of my life. We haven’t done anything, we haven’t gone anywhere. Let’s change it up and come back.’ She suggested I see if I could get on at CNA-Q.”
The summer before Brad was laid off he visited Prince Philip Drive campus and asked about any job possibilities at CNA-Q. With a lot more experience now under his belt, he was told to keep an eye on the job site.
“Sure enough there were jobs coming up for communications in CNA-Q. I applied, went through the process and I was successful. It was really weird. I didn’t miss one day of work and didn’t have any interruption in my pay at all.”
The position was a two-year contract that began in Doha, Qatar in September 2013.
“It felt like fate. If it didn’t happen I wouldn’t be where I am now. I would probably still be here (in St. Anthony), but as an instructor. Because of what happened we sold our house and everything we had. We kept the one vehicle, one snowmobile, and some furniture. My wife took leave from work. We packed up ourselves and the kids and jumped on the flight to the Middle East.”
Their experience in Doha was a positive one and Brad has nothing but praise for the college community, saying CNA-Q employees do a fantastic job making you feel at home, going over and above expectations.
“The college itself is probably the coolest institution I’ve ever been in. It was like an institute from the future. Most of the staff that I worked with were from Newfoundland and my wife ended up teaching Qatari-Canadian school – the same school my son went to.”
During their two years in the Middle East, they were bitten by the travel bug and fulfilled their desire to see the world.
“We travelled the world – spent Christmas in Thailand, Christmas in Amsterdam, travelled all over Europe and the Middle East and some Asian countries,” Brad says. “We had a real cool experience that way. The first year it was eyes wide open, a honeymoon, ‘where are we and what are we doing?’, type of thing. The second year we felt really at home.”
When Laura became pregnant with the couples’ third child, they made the decision she would return home to Canada with their children before the birth.
“We had just built a new house in St. Anthony while we were over in Qatar because we needed a home base. When we came back this summer, Laura came home and moved into the house with the kids to have the baby, and I had a flight booked for a Monday (in August) to go back to Qatar. Late Thursday before the flight I got a call about a full-time communications position in Corner Brook.”
Brad jumped at the opportunity to be closer to his family, travelling to and from St. Anthony on weekends for a month-and-a-half. When former St. Anthony Campus Administrator, Cecil Roberts, retired Brad applied for the position at the campus.
“I really worked on trying to get something back home – a management position or a teaching position. I applied for the job, ended up with an interview and a couple of weeks later they contacted me and they said, ‘congratulations you got the job!’ It was a pretty cool experience for sure. So here I am,” he says from his office at St. Anthony campus.
So now the Pilgrim family is back where it started, but this time with the additional world experience they craved – and another child.
“I never missed one day of work. Some people, when they lost their job, they got really upset and switched careers and didn’t think of the college at all. They just moved forward, but I have always loved the college and the work environment and what the college represents. I stuck with it and I was destined and determined to make a career with the college. I didn’t look back. I kept my head up and punched through it and it all worked out.”