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Students test drive careers with high school co-ops

Oct 23, 2020
Niagara This Week showcases Port High's Co-op Program

Most people wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive first.

Port Colborne High School co-operative education facilitator Shawn Coers wonders why the same isn’t true of a career. With tuition costs always on the rise and a more competitive job market than ever Coers said high-school co-ops are the perfect opportunity to do just that: try out a career before committing to post-secondary education all the while gaining a foot in the door.

“The biggest thing is to kind of get their feet wet,” said Coers, noting the school currently has about 50 students working in co-op placements at locations ranging from the Welland Hospital Emergency Room to J Oskam Steel Fabricators.

“Would you buy a car without test driving it?” he said, explaining with a huge investment required for post secondary more and more students are taking advantages of the program.

Many he said get jobs out of the deal when they graduate. He said there are several now working full time at J Oskam where Grade 12 student Kyle Riedke is currently doing a co-op every morning in industrial electrician. He had already been enrolled in the school’s Specialist High Skills Major Manufacturing program and had long thought about a career in electrical.

“I always thought electrician would be a trade I would want to get into,” he said, noting the co-op has already reinforced that desire to work in the field.

He’s also getting plenty of hands on experience pulling wire and running conduit. His lead hand lets him get his hands dirty.

“I’m never on a broom,” said Riedke. “It’s hard work but they are really teaching me.”

Electrical lead hand Jeremiah Boucher was quick to praise Riedke, explaining the 17-year-old works great with the crew,

“He’s like a sponge,” said Boucher.

Archer Truck manager Chris Grummett noted not every student works out, but thanks to the school’s work in selecting the right students many do. Archer sponsored Sak’s apprenticeship, and Grummett said he plans to offer Lennox summer work.

“They (students) all bring strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “The school does a great job selecting students.”

He said it’s great to see more students entering into co-ops in the trades given the demand in the labour market.

“We need to find ways to get youth in, there’s a shortage,” he said.

Niagara This Week - Welland
By Steve Henschel