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The rewards of exploration, risk, and smart, hard work

Juliet is part of a growing trend in the region with more than 60 Guelph area students participating in the Summer School Co-op program

“I wanted some work experience before I chose my career pathway.”
Juliet Rodgers, OLOL Transportation SHSM student

After a full school year of attending classes from September until June, who would choose to work eight hours a day for the month of July with no expectation of a pay cheque? And why?

Juliet Rodgers, pictured above, is a student of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School. She is enrolled in the Transportation Specialist High Skills Major program, and is seen here working on my car as part of her co-op experience. This past summer, she spent the month of July working at the Mr. Lube location on the corner of Willow Road and Silvercreek Avenue in Guelph, Ontario, and earned two high school credits in the process.

Juliet is part of a growing trend in the region with more than 60 Guelph area students participating in the Summer School Co-op program. Several of these students were enrolled in SHSM programs at their home schools, and were dedicated enough to their own success to sacrifice the month of July from their summer break to work at a co-op placement and earn two credits towards their high school diploma.

As a bit of background, area high schools offer Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) programs in a wide range of career sectors. SHSM programs allow students to take a defined package of courses that combine to create an area of focus for their studies - think of identifying a ‘major’ in a post-secondary program.

There are several components of SHSM programs that make them valuable to students. SHSM students earn meaningful certifications that relate directly to their area of focus, such as WHMIS, first aid, fall-arrest, working at heights, etc. SHSM students can also experience reach-ahead opportunities such as facility/campus tours, as well as innovation, collaboration & entrepreneurship training sessions.

Some of their other subject areas contextualize course content to fit with the SHSM sector of the student. For example, in a math class, a 3-4-5 triangle might be suggested for a construction SHSM student who might need to check the squareness of what they’re building, as a way of contextualizing Pythagorean Theorem.

One of the key components of SHSM programs is the opportunity and requirement for an experiential learning component, otherwise known as co-op. Students go through some initial job search and readiness training, and learn invaluable interview skills during an in-class portion that takes place one night a week in the months of May and June.

In July, these students are connected with area businesses/employers to earn co-op placement hours. In Juliet’s case, she worked eight hours a day, five days a week at Mr. Lube. The fact that this is offered in summer school means that it keeps course choices open for students during the school year.  
“I chose to take summer school co-op because I wanted some work experience before I chose my career pathway, but did not have space in my school schedule… My placement reinforced my interest in the automotive industry.” Juliet Rodgers

The true value of the co-op experience is that it allows students to try out a workplace and a career pathway, and connects dedicated, interested students with like-minded employers who understand the value of investing time and effort in the future workforce. SHSM programs tend to gather students based on their areas of interests, and is openly encouraging of students who want to pursue non-traditional pathways.

Juliet has begun to build her network of contacts within the Auto Service Industry, and has forged relationships with co-workers and supervisors that will serve her well as she progresses on her pathway. One of the potential benefits of participation in a co-op program was realized by Juliet when she was offered part-time employment at Mr. Lube, once her placement had finished in August. As Juliet explains, “I was offered employment due to my quick learning and performance shown during my placement time there.”

Juliet’s summer school co-op placement at Mr. Lube was a perfect example of how dedicated students can take risks in non-traditional pathways, engage in specialized programs, maintain options in their home school timetables and gain valuable work experience in an area of interest.

Students who are interested in discovering their strengths and applying them as they discern their passion and career pathways are encouraged to check with their school student success/guidance departments for information about their school’s experiential learning opportunities.

Nicholas Brown
Wellington Catholic District School Board


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