Co-op provides real world job experience to students

·4 min read

The East Elgin Secondary School co-operative education (co-op) placement provides students with the opportunity to get a headstart in the skilled trades early.

A significant change for the program this year is students are learning in a quadmester format (two courses each ten weeks for four sessions) rather than a semester (four courses each half of the school year), said teacher Sharon Devries.

“Students used to go out for half the day,” she noted as the program is a two-course equivalent. “The cool thing is that they have full days, and don’t have to time themselves to be back at school. In that way, it mimics a real job.”

Brody Lockyer and Josh Devries are two EESS students in the co-op placements this term, and are also registered apprentices through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program.

The students are apprenticing in a variety of trades, under the tutelage of local businesses.

Brody is with Aylmer Tire apprecenticing as an automotive service technician and Josh is with Welders & Millwrights in Vienna as an industrial mechanic millwright.

The hours they work are part of their apprenticeship, and they will complete Level 1 training while still in high school.

“It’s going well – I’m learning a lot more than I would have in the classroom,” said Brody. During his time in the placement at Aylmer Tire, he has installed a lift kit; completed alignments, oil changes and retorquing; as well as learned about suspension components, heating and cooling systems, spark plugs, and more.

Brody works from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. almost daily at Aylmer Tire. Occasionally, he will work until noon, which allows him to attend work at NoFrill’s.

He will attend the Automotive Service Technician program at Fanshawe College later this month. Brody is part of a group of five students in the co-op program who will attend Fanshawe College.

Their supervisor at the co-op will sign off on the apprenticeship training standards to signify the mastery of specific skills required for their selected trade.

“He’s done very well, actually. He’s a good kid,” noted Aylmer Tire Service Manager Daryl Smith, on how Brody has worked so far, adding he was “a lot more mature than the average 17-year-old.”

The business typically brings on a co-op student each intake – one in spring, and one in the fall. They are currently working with one other co-op student.

Mr. Smith said students will learn the basics during their apprenticeship, including safety practice, work practices, and general practices, as well as some paperwork. They have even had some co-op students return for full-time employment following their schooling, he added.

“Instead of being based in theory, it allows students to get some hands-on experience,” noted Mr. Smith.

As a millwright, Josh said he has learned welding and machining, as well as visiting different factories to see how the entire process works. He works 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.

“In the classroom, you talk about how things would work in the real world. In this co-op, you see how it works in the real world,” said Josh.

Brian Andries, owner of Welders & Millwrights, said this is the first time they’ve partnered with the EESS’s co-op prgram. Mr. Andries was approached with the idea to include a co-op student this year, and Josh was recommended for the shop.

“Josh is a very unique student,” said Mr. Andries, adding he was far more advanced than anticipated. “He didn’t need very much supervision at all, he knew what he was doing right when he came in.”

He confirmed Welders & Millwrights would continue working with East Elgin students for the apprenticeship program if provided the opportunity in the future.

Benefits for employers participating in the program include the option to train and potentially recruit future employees, develop supervisory skills in employees, and increase student awareness of career opportunities.

Those participating in the program are considered to be full-time students and not employees of the placement, though accident and liability insurance is available for students.

There is both a classroom and placement component to the co-op program. Skills evaluated in the program include responsibility, organization, independent work, collaboration, initiative, and self-regulation.

There are 40 students in the East Elgin co-op program this term, along with two full-time teachers – Ms. Devries and Steve Voros. There will be 26 students enrolled next quadmester.

Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express