Purpose and passion in action

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February 24, 2021
Ryan Baker was four years into a job when he realized he wanted to make a change
Ryan Baker
Through hard work, dedication and a little bit of luck, he made his dreams come true in 2020, opening Studebaker Industries Ltd., a repair shop in Mannville, Alta.
“I was working up by Smokey Lake. It was very cold, with heavy snow blowing sideways,” says Baker. “I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection in the window, and said to myself, ‘I don’t want to be here when I’m 30’.”
 
That moment proved to be the catalyst that set him on the path to his career in equipment repair. His father had graduated from heavy duty mechanics at Lakeland and Baker had always had an interest in anything mechanical, so he followed in his father’s footsteps. He completed the heavy duty equipment program in 2009 and then finished the automotive program in 2012, becoming a Red Seal endorsed journeyperson in both trades by age 30.
 
“Lakeland was excellent,” Baker says. “The whole faculty at Lakeland and the Trades Centre were great. Everybody had a general attitude that we were all there to succeed. I also believe the awards program at Lakeland deserves recognition. The attitude of striving for excellence and being recognized for your efforts is what keeps students pushing for the best they can do. Without support, these programs won’t continue and they were a huge help when I was going to school with a young family and a subpar employment insurance program. I’m thankful to the sponsors of the program and encourage fellow alumni to get involved.”
 
After graduating from Lakeland, Baker and his wife Joanna launched their service truck small business StudeBaker Industries Ltd. in 2011. Along with running his service truck, Baker joined the faculty at Lakeland in 2014 as an automotive career and ​technology ​studies (CTS) instructor. Though he enjoyed the opportunity to teach, balancing both proved a bit of a struggle.
 
“It was a challenge, teaching CTS for a week at a time, for full days,” Baker explains. “I’d put my day in at the college and spend another six hours after in the service truck working on my business.”
 
In 2017, Baker was forced to make a choice. His business was getting busier and splitting his time between Lakeland and his service truck wasn’t sustainable anymore.
 
“I had to make a choice, pursue a career at Lakeland or finish what we started in 2011. I came to a fork in the road where I either had to stop answering the phone and taking on new clients or accept the way things were going and expand. Entrepreneurial spirit guided me in my choice.”
 
He and Joanna decided to expand and Baker left his position at Lakeland.
 
After the owner of Frank’s Field Service outside Vermilion passed away and his sons were closing up the business, Baker went to the shop to see if they were selling any equipment and tools.
 
“I ended up walking away with a lease agreement on their shop yard space and all the tools in it,” he says. “Right there, in the span of a week, I went from being on my own with a service truck and no employees to suddenly leasing some space and needing to hire some employees. We hired two that first week and have been growing ever since.”
 
Baker and Joanna ended up working in that space for two years, though they knew within two months that they’d need something bigger.
 
“We had potential to build,” Baker says. “We started plans on building a new shop. It took two years to convince the banks we had a real plan and a vision. We just needed some help to get started.”
 
In Dec. 2019, the financing came through and construction started in Mannville, finishing up in May 2020.
 
StudeBaker and their employees have settled into the new shop. It’s is already filled with repair jobs and passion projects, everything from airplanes to lawnmowers and pickup trucks, as well as restoration vehicles.
 
“We repair anything with an engine, anything that moves. That’s what sets us apart from other repair shops – diversity. We’re not afraid to take on anything. I’ve always had the mindset that it doesn’t matter what the scale of the machine is, they’ve all got the same basic principles. It’s just a different application.”
 
That willingness to take on any challenge is something Baker picked up at Lakeland and one of the main philosophies of StudeBaker.
 
“Lakeland really helped me learn to keep an open mind,” he explains. “It’s the mindset of a lot of the instructors I had the privilege of working with. You’re not expected to know everything, but as long as you can think your way through the principles and apply them to your situation, you can get through anything. That’s the mindset they gave me at Lakeland and that’s the mindset I continue to cultivate in our business. It’s done nothing but work well for us. We may not have done everything, but we are willing and able to learn anything.”

What Students Say
With the Student-Managed Farm you learn to be accountable for what you’re doing and the choices you make. You get an understanding of what it’s like to be out in industry or on a farm making decisions that count.

– Anthony Biglieni

Agribusiness Class of 2006

What Alumni Say
Lakeland College has been a integral partner in growing our own through the school of business. As an alumnus of the college, I have first-hand learning experience in the school of business. The professors welcome Servus Credit Union to facilitate classes in the Business Ethics course each year.

– Sandi Unruh

Senior Human Resources Consultant

What Faculty & Staff Say
Vertex has had great experience bringing on students from Lakeland College. We have found the Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Management) program to provide students with good academic knowledge of the environmental industry and the criteria that governs the land reclamation

– Sean Fuller B.Sc., P.Ag.

Vice President, Environmental Services, Vertex.

What Alumni Say
There is no way I would be where I am today without Lakeland College. It inspired me to be a better person and to get a job in something I love doing. I am so thankful I had such a great experience at Lakeland and I hope future students do as well.

– Danielle Gaboury

Business studies, Class of 2016.

What Students Say
I recommend the UT program to people all the time. The smaller setting Lakeland offers, is very conducive to learning. It's less intimidating than the larger universities and allows for more class interactions and discussions

– Kelly Mykytuk

2nd year UT student, 2017-18

What Alumni Say
Choosing to attend Lakeland College was one of the best decisions that I’ve made in my life so far. The welcoming and friendly Lakeland environment encourages a place of excellence, and fosters the ability to be successful not only in school, but in life.

– Mariah Van’t Hof

University Transfer, Class of 2015

What Alumni Say
I have loved my experience at Lakeland. The teachers are personable, and quick to share about their own experiences. They encouraged me to run with my own ideas and see what would happen; they got excited about my designs, which gave me the confidence to do my best and be more creative.

– Payton Ramstead

Class of 2016, Interior Design student.

What Alumni Say
At Lakeland College you are guaranteed to have time out of the classroom where you can put everything you learned together and actually see that what you’re learning is relevant.

– Alisa Brace

Animal Health Technology, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
The friendships I made, the experiences we were provided with, and the welcoming atmosphere of the Vermilion Campus made my time at Lakeland extremely valuable and memorable

– Grayden Kay

Animal Science & Agribusiness, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
Lakeland College was a learning environment unlike any other school. It allows students to learn beyond the classroom, and staff and faculty genuinely want to see students succeed. It’s a place where you can feel comfortable asking questions and where everyone has a place and fits in.

– Carson Reid

Agribusiness, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
The instructors were the highlight of my time at Lakeland. It made a huge impact on my college experience to have instructors who challenged, encouraged, and believed in me.

– Jessica Cadrain

Child & Youth Care, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
At the beginning of my first year, I was really stressed out as I felt I had no artistic ability. But with the instruction and time put in by the interior design faculty, I was able to develop my artistic abilities. Now I am fully confident in and exceeding well in the artistic side of this career!

– Naomi Mason

Interior Design Technology, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
I just feel like you get the best education at Lakeland, especially from the time that the instructors can actually spend with you. I like the class sizes too – everything’s been great about my Lakeland experience.

– Dean Coulson

Heavy Equipment Technician, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
I do give Lakeland College credit for reigniting my interest and even preparing me for Miss Rodeo Canada. Lakeland helped me to grow enough to have the confidence to think I could take on that role and become that person. I think that I have and I am really grateful for that

– Ali Mullin

Agribusiness, class of 2014, former Miss Rodeo Canada.

What Alumni Say
I feel the professors at Lakeland actually prepared me for the profession. It’s impossible to be just a number here when there are 12 students in all of your classes. When the school advertised small class sizes, they actually meant it.

– Stephen Mark Visser

Real Estate Appraisal and Assessment, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
I was involved in the president’s gala in April where I was an emcee for the evening, it was a great experience, and I had a lot of fun doing it and would recommend it to everyone.”

– Lucas Tetreault

HOPE Power Engineering, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
I would recommend Lakeland College for the simple fact that it's for everybody. As a mature student who went back to school much later than his 18th year, I was immediately accepted, and not ostracized in the least

– Donald James Shaw

Accounting Major, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
All the hands-on learning was great and very helpful once placed into the industry. Having clients leave with a smile after each service assured me that I was in the right field of work. I would recommend Lakeland to anyone.

– Courtnee Coolidge

Esthetician, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
The professors care so much about their students at Lakeland and are able to know each and every one of them by name, so much so that they are able to nominate a ton of students for awards.

– Stephanie Wakefeild

University Transfer, Class of 2016.

What Alumni Say
They really put you in the lead at Lakeland. Lakeland cares about its students, empowers them, and gives them opportunities to achieve their goals. I don’t see Lakeland as a stepping stone or a first step – I see it as a bridge and an integral part of my education.

– Alyssa Wells

University Transfer, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
I wanted to get experience in the field of assessment as it would give me exposure to what it’s like day to day. It was an invaluable experience as I find it hard to imagine what it would be like working in a particular field or area until I’m doing the work.

– Sheldon Farrell

Real estate appraisal and assessment, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
In the campus spa, they give you time to work with each client so nothing is rushed and you’re able to concentrate on providing the best service you can to your client.

– Daphney Couturier

Esthetician, Class of 2017.

What Alumni Say
It’s going to be a lot easier to start our first jobs having this experience and having been able to build our confidence in the campus spa. I love that we get to have this opportunity.

– Darby Watchel

Esthetician, Class of 2017.

What Employers Say
Lakeland is a great place to find employees. The college provides real world training that equips soon-to-be employees with knowledge and people skills that are highly sought after in the agriculture industry these days.

– Dustin Dinwoodie

Key Account Manager – Western Canada Arysta LifeScience

What Alumni Say
The hands-on field trips, quality of education i received, professors who are invested in your success, and all the friends I made. I exceeded my academic expectations and I also had a lot of fun. If i had to do it all over gain, i would choose Lakeland!

– Nicole (Audet) Pysh

Class of 2006, Environmental Protection & Class of 2008, Applied Environmental Degree