Beyond The Uniform

New transition program launched for personnel releasing from the Canadian Armed Forces, RCMP, and provincial police

This April Willis College will be piloting the new Veteran Friendly Transition Program (VFTP), a program designed to assist Canada’s servicemen and women transitioning to civilian careers.

Several dignitaries and members connected to the military community gathered on Parliament Hill on March 23 to announce the VFTP.

“I had the privilege of leading the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces at home and abroad for over 30 years. I know what value these veterans can bring to Canada as civilians, and I am delighted to see how the program can help hundreds more get and keep great jobs,” said LGen. (ret’d) Andrew Leslie, MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the host of the announcement on Parliament Hill.

One of the oldest colleges in Canada spread out at three separate branches, Willis College offers a variety of programs including business, health, and technology.

“Willis College is pleased to be the first post-secondary institution in Canada to work with the VFTP.

“Willis College has a long and proud tradition of supporting Canada’s veterans and is pleased to be a part of this new and important program for our veterans,” said Rima Aristocrat VFTP founder and CEO of Willis College.

Developed by and for veterans, VFTP will combine career counselling, personal and professional support and course offerings all under one roof to simplify the process for Canada’s veterans.

The Ottawa campus of Willis College will be housing the VFTP in the newly established George Sparks Veteran Learning Centre. The Centre is named after the Second World War Veteran and Willis College Graduate.

“I feel greatly honoured for having the Veteran Friendly Transition Learning Centre named after a guy like me…I was just an average student, but I’ve outlived them all,” joked the 100-year-old war veteran during Thursday’s announcement. “They (Willis College) have been in operation for 150 years which gives that much more weight to the honour.”

Sparks also worked at Willis College for a number of years.

Willis College has attracted many veterans over the years, a major reason why Aristocrat was able to work with military members and veterans to create the program. She’s been invested in creating a program for veterans for a number of years now.

“For me, this is very personal, it’s a very humbling experience to have…it’s more than a business it’s more than an education, this is my calling,” said Aristocrat.

On average the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) releases 5,000 personnel from service. The VFTP is aimed at providing a flexible and supportive veteran-friendly career and learning environment.

“Leaving the military and the men and women that you served with can be very overwhelming at times. There are so many complicated things that you have to learn to do as you go through the stages of transition, when all you really want is to provide for your family. For me, going back to school was very important to regain my confidence, to develop new skills, and study alongside other veterans just like me. It reminded me of how we worked together to serve this nation,” said  MCpl. (ret’d) Michael McBride, a thirteen year veteran of the CAF.

Other dignitaries attending Thursday’s announcement included Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, Sherry Romanado, LGen. (ret’d) Walter Semianiw and a number of other veterans.

The VFTP is open to all veterans of the CAF, RCMP and Provincial Police.

For more information about the Veteran Friendly Transition Program visit the website (, email [email protected] or call 613-627-0014.


Above image: Second World War Veteran and Willis College Graduate George Sparks and Rima Aristocrat VFTP founder and CEO of Willis College.

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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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