From Seneca to Edmonton
RPA students recruited for employment
(L-R) Natalia Tikhonova, Konstantin Tikhonov, Andrea Suarez-Kohatsu, Nadezda Gordeeva and Nicole LaFrance are moving to Edmonton to work for the City of Edmonton's Assessment and Taxation Branch.
Five graduating students are headed to Edmonton this spring as that city’s newest property tax assessors.
The group from Seneca’s Real Property Administration (RPA) diploma program secured employment with the City of Edmonton's Assessment and Taxation Branch, which recently visited Newnham Campus to conduct onsite interviews over a three-day period.
“We love our Seneca grads and the training they've received through the RPA program. That’s what keeps us coming back,” says Jennifer Forest, Manager, Talent and Customer Relationship Management at the City of Edmonton. “They are polished and knowledgeable of the assessment business. They come in with a level of confidence ready to take on challenging work.”
The City of Edmonton has hired 12 RPA students in the last three years and more than 20 in the last 10 years, with starting salaries around $60,000. Some Seneca grads who have stayed on have been promoted to leadership roles. Only two have returned to Ontario.
In fact, 90 per cent of graduates find employment due to this unique program that has graduates earning a Seneca diploma, professional accreditation and affiliations, making them highly sought-after professionals in the property valuation and property tax sectors.
Representatives from the City of Edmonton's Assessment and Taxation Branch making a presentation about working and living in Edmonton: (L-R) Bozena Andersen, Manager; Jennifer Forest, Manager, Talent and Customer Relationship Management; and James Ballarano, Assessor and Seneca RPA alumnus.
“There are no other programs like ours anywhere,” says Prof. Mark Leavens, RPA Program Co-ordinator. “We expand beyond general property valuation into the specifics of appraisal, property assessment and property taxation.”
Seneca also offers two streams of RPA: regular (four semesters) and accelerated (two semesters).
“It was non-stop. I had no social life, but it was well worth it,” says Nicole LaFrance of the accelerated program, which requires students to have already completed a degree or diploma. “I want to love my job and Seneca gave me the right connection between my bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and RPA.”
Nicole, who turned down an employment opportunity in Ontario, is now looking forward to starting a new life in Edmonton after landing her first full-time permanent job with benefits and a pension plan. Her journey started last fall when she enrolled in the RPA program.
“Coming from university, I didn’t get as much direction as I did at Seneca,” she says. “Now I look forward to having my own place, my own car and that first paycheque.”
Joining Nicole in Edmonton will be her classmates Nadezda Gordeeva, Andrea Suarez-Kohatsu, and wife and husband Natalia Tikhonova and Konstantin Tikhonov.
“We were very impressed with the presentation from the City of Edmonton and we both liked the potential career progression they offered,” Natalia says.
Natalia and Konstantin's journey began a few years ago when the couple moved to Canada from Russia. In 2012, they enrolled in Seneca’s English for Academic Purposes program in hopes of one day finding good, stable jobs in Canada.
“We were vulnerable when we first came with no family and no friends,” Natalia says. “We are so grateful to Seneca for the opportunities it has given us. We are very happy and proud to be Seneca grads.”
Prior to coming to Canada, Natalia and Konstantin both worked in the health-care industry in Russia. She has a degree in medicine and he was a practising medical doctor. In addition to earning their RPA diplomas at Seneca, Natalia has obtained an Independent Digital Photography diploma and a Paralegal diploma, and Konstantin a Business Administration — Entrepreneurship and Small Business diploma.
The RPA program, Konstantin says, has become an industry standard. “If you graduated from Seneca, the employers know you are ready to work. We are looking forward to learning new and different things in Edmonton.”
The diversity of work at the City of Edmonton was what sold James Ballarano two years ago when he turned down a job offer in Ontario and headed for Alberta.
“I wanted to challenge myself in a different environment and to also see what’s out west and see Canada,” says the 2015 RPA grad. “There’s a row of cubicles occupied by Seneca grads at the City and we bond at work because we all share a common background.”
RPA 2015 grads working at the City of Edmonton's Assessment and Taxation Branch talk about living and working in Edmonton.