Alterative education for post-secondary students

Enter North Peace Secondary School’s work experience and dual credit program.

There are three elements within the alternative program offered at North Peace Secondary School, encompassing work experience, a secondary school apprenticeship and a dual credit program.

Coordinator for the work experience program, Jeff Mayer says while the initiative was brought forward to help struggling students graduate, there’s also another element.

“A lot of times, the brick and mortar students don’t see the long-term benefits of stuff like math and English, and a lot of time when they get involved in these career programs, especially in a lot of trades programs, they’re sitting there going, ‘man, I need my physics; I need my math here if I’m going to be an electrician’.” Mayer said. “It also adds relevance to the overall academic procedure we have.”

So here’s how it works:

When a student signs up for the work experience component, they’re signing up for 90 hours of work, entitling them to four high school credits.

This can include anything from working in a veterinary clinic to being employed at a fast-food chain.

“I didn’t get this gift of the gab though my teacher education school, I got it from slinging burgers at a restaurant for 10 years,” Mayer said while explaining the ‘higher level of learning’ gained through low-level jobs. “You think of a student, who let’s say in working at McDonalds, if you really step back and look at it, what kind of higher level of learning are they engaging in; teamwork, communication…. We just want students to acknowledge what those skills are and how that’s going to help them in their overall career avenues they’re working towards.”

The secondary school apprenticeship is more trade focused. For every 120 hours worked, students earn four credits, which can be completed during school, after school or even on holidays.

Some typical skills learned in this program include, but are not limited to construction, welding, heavy-duty operation and millwright.

One might say the dual credit program is the most unique, whereas students take college courses while they are still in high school and earn credits in both institutions.

Students may choose to earn a dual credit in a trade, but are also presented with the option of taking more art and science based programs like English 101, Biology 101, Psychology 101, and Early Childhood Education 100 to name a few.

There’s a group of 10 – 12 secondary students involved in the dual credit program that Mayer says is a great example of how this program can develop into real-world implications.

“They’re out building a house from the ground-up right now, and they’re getting both high school (credit) and they’ll end up with their level 1 certification in carpentry as well.”

But that’s not the story of Amanda Tompkins, 16 years old, who is only in grade 11 but has already gone through two separate career paths and plans on taking a third.

“My first 90 hours was volunteer work at a veterinarian clinic, and I got to just watch surgeries and help out around the office,” Tompkins goes on to say. “My second 90 hours were up in the mountains at Big Nine Outfitters.”

Tompkins says some of the skills she’s developed while spending her days with the outfitters include chasing horses, caping, scouting, hunting, guiding and cooking.

Tompkins adds while talking about her future, “I’d actually like to try more stuff and go to different jobs… figure out how it is before I decide anything.”

Back at North Peace Secondary School, Mayer says theses programs not only “benefit students in giving them access and insight into potential career avenues they want to explore,” but also the community as a whole.

“This community needs workers, needs labour. It gives employers potential to actually hand pick employees at times, and to really train them from the ground-up.”

Meyer goes on to make mention of another student who also gained volunteer work experience in a veterinary clinic, and did so well, she left to acquire a post-secondary diploma and has a job waiting for her when she comes back.

Mayer concludes by saying the entire initiative would not be made possible if it wasn’t for the immense support coming from businesses around the community.

“So many companies in town have been great to us for work experience… even students with developmental disabilities; Wal-Mart is awesome, McDonalds is awesome that way, Safeway is good, Price Mart’s good. All these local companies are just so involved in this project.”

If you’re a student looking to get involved in the program, email Mayer at [email protected]

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