Last week, twenty Grade 11 students who are enrolled in our two-credit cooperative education program began their work placements, which will run two half days per week until April. Over 200 Greenwood students have participated in this program over the past 12 years, and often cite this experience as something that pushed them outside of their comfort zone.
We know that deep or enduring learning happens when students have the opportunity to take concepts from one area and apply them to another. Co-op is perfect in this respect, as many elements of day-to-day school life take on new relevance in the workplace. At school, we emphasize skills such as the importance of punctuality, proper dress, following directions and being a good teammate. On their co-op assignments, students quickly realize that what we value in school is of equal value in the workplace.
Co-op also comes at the appropriate stage of the student’s experience as it allows them to “test-drive” potential career options prior to making their postsecondary plans. Over the years our students have had the opportunity to be part of placements such as investing, marketing, jewelry making, broadcasting, teaching and policing. Former alumnus Morgan Andrade (’12) is now employed as an Account Consultant at Strategic Objectives, a public relations firm here in Toronto, which is where she did her work placement when she was in Grade 11.
Besides gaining valuable work experience, co-op also prepares students for postsecondary co-op opportunities, which continue to be a growing area of importance in higher education. We have also had students use their co-op experience to earn summer employment or submit parts of their course portfolio to enhance their postsecondary applications.
Ultimately, this type of experiential learning enables students to discover a great deal about themselves. The transition from school to the workplace helps our students learn to be adaptive, and in some instances, how to persevere and overcome challenges, which are important life skills we hope every Greenwood student acquires.