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Amelia Cooper: A Passionate Career Journey

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

Amelia in a dark blue shirt with blond hair and sitting in a power wheelchair

Meet Amelia Cooper, a tenacious, smart and kind, GIS professional with a wicked sense of humour. Welcome to her career journey… maybe her journey will inspire others to pursue what they are most passionate about.

Amelia began to explore her career journey in 2008 after graduating from Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary School. She started going to Kwantlen Polytechnic University, not sure of what career she wanted to go into. Soon, she was drawn toward taking some geography courses in her first year and really enjoyed learning about Earth’s natural processes. In particular, she enjoyed reading maps. Unsure of what career she would be able to do with geography, in 2011 she joined the Neil Squire Employ-Ability program to hone in on her career path. She learned new work skills like communication, problem-solving and teamwork often referred to as soft skills and researched a variety of careers she could do with a geography degree. This eventually led her to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Amelia arranged for an informational interview with one of her professors at Kwantlen to find out more. After seeing all the interesting mapping projects that her professor had worked on, she found her calling and decided to would work towards a degree in GIS.

In 2013, Amelia transferred to Simon Fraser University (SFU) to complete her degrees in Geography and GIS. For the first couple of years she was going to SFU, she also helped a Master’s degree student with doing marine research using remote sensing technology. This involved analyzing satellite and aerial photos of the coast of Tofino, BC and researching kelp growth. Amelia was also the SFU Geography Student Union secretary. She typed meeting minutes, planned group field trips and volunteered at different university events. Before Amelia graduated in 2016, she started working with BC Partners in Workforce Innovation (BC WiN), a research initiative (now in its 8th year) that connects people with disabilities to careers with inclusive employers in BC.

While working with BC WiN, Amelia not only helped people with disabilities get hired for various positions but also advocated for better career-oriented employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Her work with BC WiN led her to another opportunity to help make a difference for others and she was asked to assist Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC with developing a TechAbility program to do research on people with disabilities finding jobs in the tech industry. As a chairperson, she helped with meetings, gave feedback and ideas on how the program should be developed and helped program participants with doing informational sessions and job shadowing.

In 2016, Amelia graduated from SFU with a BA in Environmental Geography and a Certificate in Spatial Information Systems. After that, Amelia searched for her true passion while also continuing to help with BC WiN and the TechAbility program. In March 2018, her dream finally became a reality. Amelia was hired as a full-time GIS Specialist with Vancouver International Airport (YVR). In her career with YVR, Amelia learned a lot of new work skills in many different areas. These included skills in managing different situations at the airport, new GIS software such as FME and Geocortex and managing and organizing large amounts of data. While working at the airport, Amelia also helped with Employment Equity and Diversity events, mapped and updated YVR-related data and also helped organize and run meetings with airport staff, contractors and stakeholders.

Throughout her career at YVR, Amelia always stuck to the team motto of Safety, Accountability, Innovation and Teamwork. She participated in airport emergency drills helped with department teamwork activities and aided in maintaining safety standards in and around the airport. She also helped the environment team with keeping their data and applications up to date and helped with innovative construction planning.

Unfortunately, when COVID-19 hit in 2020, it had a significant impact on travel worldwide and the airport expansion project Amelia was supporting at YVR was cancelled. Amelia found herself in unforeseen circumstances. Unfortunately, she was permanently laid off from since the expansion project was cancelled and collective agreement bumping provisions took effect.

When you meet Amelia, there’s one thing you will notice right away. She’s perseverant and she’s been that way her entire life. She was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, then survived childhood brain cancer, to current days where barriers for people with disabilities still exist everywhere – which she not only overcomes but personally advocates for change for others.

When the team at BC WiN learned of Amelia’s layoff from YVR, they reached out with an offer to return to her previous HR role and support another national project the team was working on. She helped with leading social media activities, engaging with job seekers at Career Fairs (virtual and again now in-person) and represented the perspective of people with lived experience through BC WiN activities and discussions.

Amelia now Chairs the Persons with Experiential Knowledge Working Group under the Employment Accessibility Standards Canada (ASC) project the team is also working on. This involves informing ASC on Recruitment and Retention Standards as it relates to the employment of People with Disabilities with federally regulated employers. Her group meets regularly during the project to review and provide guidance on project activities, research approaches, and findings. The project emphasizes the importance of including the perspectives of people with lived experience in every stage of the project to include the considerable expertise that people with disabilities have in navigating employment barriers in their own lives, reflecting on their strengths and capacity to find creative solutions to systemic barriers, and how these can be incorporated into both research and practice.

In the past, Amelia has also acted in plays and attended meetings for the Realwheels Theatre Society, was a Chairperson for the Persons with Disabilities Advisory Council for the City of Vancouver and was Secretary for the Little People of British Columbia for a term. When she does have spare time, she creates crafts for her Etsy store Butterfly Art Crafts and reads many kinds of books. She also married her now husband Aaron in June of 2022. Amelia strives to live her life helping to improve employment and living conditions for people in BC and all over the world.

Amelia recently got a new position as a Referrals Analyst with the Tsawwassen First Nation and looks forward to helping both the environment and the Tsawwassen People with new developments and strategies.

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