WCSS co-op students learning at the job

DUNROBIN – There’s more than one path to a rewarding career, and West Carleton Secondary School (WCSS) is providing its co-operative program students as many avenues as they can.

The WCSS co-operative program allows Grade 12 students the opportunity to join the workforce for a school year as part of their curriculum in a field they are interested in. The program involves an in-class component, but the majority of the program is spent out in the field.

Students are partnered with participating businesses in a variety of fields.

“There’s so many programs for the students,” WCSS co-operative program head Jen Stewart told West Carleton Online Wednesday, Nov. 13. “It’s fantastic. If there’s an employer that wants to mentor a student, there’s an opportunity.”

Stewart says this year there are two students at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, a student at the Fitzroy Harbour Garage, the West Carleton Animal Hospital, JL Carpentry, Barry’s Electric, the Bill Mason Outdoor Education Centre, Carp Family Dentistry and businesses all over West Carleton and greater Ottawa.

But Stewart didn’t invite West Carleton Online to WCSS to talk to her, she did it so we could talk to some of her students.

Carp native Sean David is working as a lab technician at Nokia and South March resident Nick Archambault is honing his numbers skills at the Baker-Tilly Accounting Firm.

David says his on-site work “usually involves helping other technicians.”

He does lab clean-up, sets up the giant modem racks and wires all the fibre optics.

“That’s what I spend a lot of my time working on,” David said.

And he says he loves it.

“I’m really interested in technology,” David said. “I have a bit of experience with the software side. But I don’t have a lot of access to the hardware side and that’s what I really wanted to explore.”

And he wanted to explore if this is the career path for him following high school.

“I wanted to explore the career side of hardware engineer, because that’s what I am interested in right now,” David said.

David buses to Nokia from the school and spends his afternoon at the company. He said the work world was a bit of puzzle at first.

“I was a bit surprised when I got there because they don’t really assign tasks, you have to figure out what you’re supposed to do,” David said. “I had to go talk to people and figure out what needed to be done.”

Archambault is a Bermuda native who moved the area a few years ago. He is looking to do something with his career that might get him back to Bermuda. He says he’s enjoying his time at the accounting firm.

“I take car of ITC calculations for the firm’s clients,” he said. “I look for tax credits. I input physical documents like balance statements in to the firm’s system so we can track them. I do reconciliations. Our main goal is to take our clients paperless which is a big task, especially out here.”

Accounting is kind of a family profession.

“Both my parents are Chartered Professional Accountants,” Archambault said. “My main goal is to move back to Bermuda and there are many spots for people in that field there.”

Archambault says he is also using his placement to network.

“I’m trying to within the office,” he said. “I know in a couple of years if I need a job I can apply and know someone there. The co-op program has really ley me get my foot in the door.”

David said he also found out “Nokia employs a lot of co-op students.”

It’s these future plans that makes choosing your coo-op program pretty important.

“You have to go in knowing what industry you want to be in,” Archambault said. “But there are so many options within the co-op programs you are going to find a good placement. There’s careers you never knew existed, that were a thing, that you might want to pursue.”

Grade 12 student Dillan Durant of Carp couldn’t attend our meet. He was in school, just not West. Durant’s placement is at Myers VW at the Kanata Autopark. But his program comes with an added perk. He also spends eight weeks of the semester at Algonquin College completing his Level 1 Automotive Service Technician certification.

“He loves it,” Steward said. “He’s doing fantastic. He’s definitely got a job at the end of it.”

West Carleton Online caught up with Durant later that afternoon during a phone call interview.

“It’s lots of fun,” he said. “I’m learning a lot. There’s only eight in our class at Algonquin College. I expected it to be packed. We’re doing lots of hands-on stuff.”

Durant says the co-op program was a way out of school with a plan.

 “I wanted to take co-op to get out of high school and see what the work world was like,” he said. “I really enjoyed the auto technician class at West. If I choose to follow this career path, I’ll be ahead of the game.”

At college Durant is “the young guy.”

At VW Durant works with another apprentice who has his Level 3 certification.

“We work together and it means I get to work on more complex work,” he said. “I’m really learning. We’re not just doing oil changes and tire rotations. We’re doing exhaust work, water pumps, not first year apprentice stuff.”

Durant could really see automotive work becoming a part of his future.

“It definitely is,” he said. “I like the environment at work and everything about it.”