Co-operative Education… Bridging the Gap Between School and Work

Posted: 12.08.2015
An Article by Jane Vavaroutsos

Co-operative Education is a program that integrates classroom theory with practical experience in the workplace. The current reality is that the majority of students are preparing to make transitions to a dynamic, demanding, and challenging workplace destinations. Co-op employer Bank of Montreal Financial Services Manager, Clinton Cibulis, stated:

As an employer, participating in co-op allows us to help serve and shape the next generation. Having co-op opportunities in schools allows students the chance to gain practical experience and invaluable insight into the importance of the world of work.

Co-operative education addresses the development of essential workplace skills necessary for work, learning, and life. The program is based on a partnership between the school and business/industry and involves the participation of students, teachers and employers. Students experience the practical aspects of the job, the demands of employment and the expectations of employers in the changing world of work. According to
Debbie Gabura, owner of Sew What Fashion Design:

In my seven years as a co-op employer I have had many different students come through my doors. Overall, it has been a positive experience. Co-operative education students who work with me are given the opportunity to learn life skills. I feel that these students enrich my life and work and it is a pleasure to have them on board. Co-operative education opportunities should be available to allow students to have “hands-on” training and learn employability skills. I will definitely continue to give back to my community by offering placements to students at Rick Hansen as it is rewarding to both the students and me. 
The learning at school and at the business location complement each other. Students earn credits toward their diploma; there is no cost to the employer. The Ministry of Education provides WSIB coverage for students at the workplace. 

Co-op students are placed in work settings, which best match both the educational needs of the students and the interests of the organization. This program is designed to promote closer relationship between students and working adults who are willing to share their knowledge. Co-op employer Pamela Leader, from Minute Man Press said:

Our lives are a journey in life, so when we can assist students to meet their goals it is a win-win situation. Entering the workforce for the first time can be very exciting but also can be over-whelming. Students can absorb their surroundings and tasks that can only excel their current skills.

Everyone has to start somewhere in life, so if an employer can open their door to a co-op student we will all benefit in the long run.
The employer acts as a mentor and advisor to the co-op student. The organization is offered the opportunity to participate in public service, career development of our youth, and staff development. Co-op assists in building a readily available pool of skilled and motivated workers for the future.

OYAP, the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program in Ontario, is another branch of the co-operative education experience. OYAP allows students to acquire both apprenticeship hours and competencies at no cost to the employer while still in high school. 
There are over 130 trades in which Ontario students can be placed. These include; Tool and Die, Automotive, Welding, Plumbing, Woodworking, Hospitality and Electrical industries.

Benefits to the employer include the following:
  • Excellent source of young, enthusiastic and skilled apprentices
  • Directs young people into the skilled trades at an earlier age
  • Helps your employees to further develop their supervisory skills
  • Promotes positive attitudes toward your organization and career education
  • Helps to build a skilled workforce by increasing student awareness of the skilled trades
  • Promotes an awareness of job opportunities
  • Employers may qualify for a wage subsidy through Job Connect when they employ OYAP graduates and summer students
Since government and trade organizations have identified an imminent shortfall in the number of qualified trades people in Ontario, OYAP provides the perfect opportunity for employers to foster the development of new skilled workers. Automotive Service Manager from 401 Dixie Nissan,

Peter Geer sees: 

Co-operative education as a perfect opportunity to give back to the community. It is an important step for students interested in the auto service trade. Two of our current apprentices were hired because they impressed us with their positive attitude and willingness to work while in their OYAP placement here.

The Co-operative Education Department at Rick Hansen Secondary School appreciates the support of the employers currently mentoring our students. Our employers play a dynamic role in youth development and success. For further information about the Co-operative Education program and to sign up as an employer, please contact your local high school. You can find information about the Rick Hansen Co-operative Education Department at (905)567-4260 x 240 or check out our website at - click on students, co-op education.
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