High school is a pivotal moment in each student’s life. At the start of grade nine, we all find newfound maturity, make new friends, and find ourselves on the brink of new experiences and an ever-expanding social scene. However, one must not forget the primary goal of institutions such as Westmount- ultimately, we arrive at school everyday and study eight courses a year to prepare ourselves for our impending futures and careers. Although the four years between eighth grade and postsecondary can feel much too short to prepare us for adult life, the Westmount Cooperative Education Department is here to offer you a chance to test drive your career and take the first step into your future.
I had had the pleasure of sitting down with Co-op teachers here at Westmount, to inquire about the Co-op course and it’s many benefits. Immediately, the Co-op course was described as ‘all about the student’. One of the most attractive features of this course is that it caters to each student’s personal ambitions. Whether you are looking to enter a trade, start your own business, or communicate with other businesses worldwide, one can work with all the friendly-faces in the co-op office to set up a placement that inspires you as there are ‘no limits to type of placement’ a student can secure; placements in construction, medical fields, teaching, and at local businesses are just many of the few accessible. If this is not enough of a reason to enter co-op into your course schedule, one will most certainly be enticed by the experiences of co-op students of the past- Westmount students have worked with Mcmaster University on the anthropology team, had hands on experience with Habitat for Humanity, worked with the Hamilton Police Department, and perfected their culinary skills by attending Mohawk College.
Yet another benefit of co-op is how it works with your schedule, as there are no limits to how you personally complete your co-op hours. Whether you are looking to gain your credits by attending a morning, afternoon, or all day placement, you can gain real hands-on experience regardless of your agenda. Another alluring option is ‘virtual co-op’, during which a student does not attend a workplace but rather works online with a company or organization. Through discussions with a Co-op teacher, you could work with a medical, science, or technology research team through platforms such as email and skype; a past co-op student was in charge of online advertising for a company through Facebook. Additionally, a student can gain more than high school credits when attending a placement- by attending placements such as Mohawk College, a student can gain university or college credits while gaining their high school co-op course credits, which called a ‘dual-credit’ placement. Many students gain the essential experience and certificates needed to advance in their future career at their placements. And still the benefits of co-op are twofold- depending on the placement, a student can be paid by the workplace for their hours, and many students go on to work at their placement even after their co-op course has finished.
When asked if students enjoyed the co-op course, the teachers explained that “every student benefits as long as they communicate openly with teacher to find a placement that works for the student”, to which there is no limit to the placements that can be secured.
Therefore, if you’re a student looking to ‘test drive a career, make connections in the industry, and potentially gain part-time employment’, you should consider Cooperative Education. Talk to your guidance counselor or visit the current co-op teacher in the Co-Op office located by the cafeteria to learn more about your options and to find a placement that interests you.
For more information about placements, visit the co-op office located by the cafeteria. One can also explore HWDSB’s My Path My Way website or http://www.hwdsb.on.ca/secondary/programs/experiential-learning/co-op/experiential-learning/ .