CHSS Co-op Program celebrates another good year - Feb. 1, 2018
BY DENNY SCOTT
Central Huron Secondary School (CHSS) recently shone a spotlight on its co-op students and the businesses that took them in with a special breakfast and recognition ceremony.
More than 20 businesses from the school’s catchment area ranging from healthcare to childcare to industrial production and service locations were recognized with plaques, stickers and custom-made calendars featuring co-op students at work.
Local businesses and business people were involved in the program, taking in students from the school and beyond.
Jeff McGavin of McGavin Farm Equipment was in attendance with co-op student Jacob Gulutzen.
McGavin explained that McGavin Farm Equipment has been participating in the program for approximately 10 years through CHSS and St. Anne’s Catholic Secondary School.
“It’s been a good experience for us and for the students,” McGavin said. “We have had three people come through the co-op program who are now working for us. It’s an excellent program.”
McGavin said the program is important because it allows people to “try on” a career before they dedicate time and money associated with schooling.
“We’ve had it before where people think they want to be a technician, do their co-op, and find out it’s not what they want to do,” he said. “It’s a great program to get some hands-on experience before they dedicate their lives to it.”
Blyth’s Elli Cohen of The Ross Firm was in attendance with Sarah VanDriel, also of the Goderich-based law firm. The company had welcomed Ian MacGregor as a co-op student to learn about lawyers and the legal business in the area.
Cohen said the program was definitely worthwhile for both the employers and the students.
The Ross Firm had two co-op students over the past year and Cohen said they were both amazing.
“They were really great additions to our company and it was a positive experience for the lawyers and the staff,” he said.
Cohen said that, in his experience, a lot of co-op opportunities seemed to be more hands-on work, so he wasn’t sure how the law office would fit into that tradition, however he discovered there was a healthy appetite from students to be involved in the program.
Last term’s co-op student, MacGregor, left the program with an in-depth knowledge of corporate minute books according to Cohen.
Minute books contain, among other things, a company’s article of incorporation, bylaws and minutes from company meetings.
“By the time Ian was done, he was well-versed in the books,” Cohen said. “He was comfortable and able to find anything we needed from them.”
Cohen said that students at the firm experience some litigated or judicial cases and some negotiated cases, giving them a breadth of knowledge regarding the firm’s projects.
The firm has welcomed students for two years and will be open to more in the future, Cohen said, noting that they would also be open to welcoming former co-op students starting their law training with articling. He noted that, giving that opportunity for young graduates to come home instead of going elsewhere is important to the community.
Casey Boven of Blyth’s CMB Construction attended the event as well, having brought on Brett Flemming through the co-op program.
Boven, in his first year with the program, said his experience was a positive one.
“We had a good student in Brett,” he said. “I know his family, and it was nice to have someone I could talk to on that personal level and that common ground. It made it easier to connect with him.”
Boven said Flemming was eager to learn, which made him an ideal co-op student.
“It’s nice to show them what could be in their workplace later in life,” he said. “I was able to show him some of the things that he could do as part of the profession.”
While it was his first year involved with the program, Boven has experience with co-op students. His brother Mike had one several years ago, and Casey himself was a co-op student in high school.
“I did a co-op placement with Mike Siertsema in Grade 11 as a bricklayer,” he said. “I still talk about my co-op days and how I enjoyed them.
“It’s kind of funny, actually, because it’s come full circle,” he said. “At the time I worked for Mike, and now, he works for me, doing foundations.”
Boven said he is glad the school has provided opportunities for students to participate in trades because fewer students are studying trades.
“It’s important to have people trained in these skills that can stay in the area,” he said. “There is lots of development in this area, and, if kids can see that they can take up a trade and be busy and that they are needed, they will stay in the community and want to raise their families here too.”
Auburn’s Jacqui Empson-Laporte, who works for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) in Clinton, welcomed student Matt Colquhoun to her workplace.
Empson Laporte’s involvement in the program was spurred by her own children looking for co-op placements.
“I was going out to the community to look for employers to work together to provide opportunities,” she said. “I thought, if I’m looking for my children, and I have an opportunity to help others, that’s only fair.”
Through OMAFRA, Empson Laporte said she could offer not just the co-op program, but an opportunity to have well-trained summer students.
“It works well to have a co-op student in second semester and keep them on,” she said. “That way I have one student to work with me for eight months.”
This is the second year she has been involved in the program, though, as she explains, there isn’t always a student interested in being involved with OMAFRA, so she doesn’t have a student every semester.
Students help her prepare for coming events like farm shows, environmental conferences and trade shows. Empson Laporte said students obtain some good experience communicating with individuals and handling questions.
“They also work on social media, helping me prepare the analytics for it,” she said, saying it’s a new experience for students who usually only handle social media for personal use. “We look at the risks of using social media, the goals from a corporate perspective and how it can help us communicate.”
Student responsibilities also include helping with environmental farm plans and learning about agriculture best management practices and Lake Huron water quality projects.
Other co-op placement providers included several local healthcare and childcare centres and CHSS itself.
This year, co-op directors implemented a new program to recognize the businesses that have gone the extra mile or provided long-standing co-op placements for the school called the Employer of the Month Award.
The program started in October with A&T Automotive taking the first honours. November saw the Sign Guys recognized, December, Seaforth’s Progressive Turf and Anchorvale Repair was named the Employer of the Month for January.
“We want to recognize the efforts put forward for the school and the program,” co-op program organizer Shane Taylor said.
The event also served as an opportunity for the Pathways program to be announced. The program offers co-op opportunities in the summer and will be available this year. Taylor explained that, in an area like Huron County that heavily relies on seasonal opportunities like tourism and agriculture, it’s an important new addition to the co-op offerings at the school.
Anyone interested in taking part in the program can contact Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org