Canadian Paralympic champion launches Alcan scheme 

(l-r) Michael Dionysiou, Christine Cothenet, Varun Nair (first year engineering students) with Chantal Petitclerc

More than 100 engineering students turned out to hear mining giant Alcan launch its PlanA scholarship and mentoring scheme at Charles Darwin University on Friday. (March 30).

They were also entertained and inspired by motivational speaker Chantal Petitclerc, Alcan’s Goodwill Ambassador who travels the world for the company.

Ms Petitclerc, the Canadian athlete who has won 10 gold medals from the past three Paralympic Games, told the students of the challenges in life that create new directions.

She outlined her own experience of becoming a professional Paralympian, made after her life changed when her spinal cord was severed by a heavy barn door that fell on her at the age of 13.

She took up wheelchair racing at the age of 18 and is now preparing for the Beijing Paralympic Games – her final goal in a long and illustrious athletic career.

Ms Petitclerc also spoke of her long rivalry with Australian wheelchair athlete Louise Sauvage, and the competitive determination and edge needed to overcome her rival as world champion and record breaker.

'We all have challenges in life, and it’s the lessons that we learn from these challenges that are going to make the difference,' she told her young audience.

Earlier, Alcan Vice-President for the Pacific region, Alistair Field, explained the company’s new scheme to encourage students to sign on with Alcan while still at university.

CDU is among 10 Australian universities selected for PlanA, which will see students selected for scholarships, mentoring and other schemes designed to develop their talents as engineers and business people.

Pro Vice-Chancellor Community & Access, Don Zoellner, explained that the launch of PlanA is just one of many facets of the developing relationship between Alcan and CDU.

‘Other areas of shared interest and activity between CDU and Alcan include research, apprenticeship training and the provision of life and employment skills training for Indigenous people,’ he said.

Details of PlanA are available on the Alcan website

Alcan, headquartered in Montreal, has 65,000 employees in 61 countries – 3000 of them in Australia, with major alumina mining and manufacturing operations at Gove in the Northern Territory.