What is Experiential Learning? 

Experiential learning opportunities are hands-on learning experiences that help students prepare for future employment. Examples of experiential learning could include a co-op placement, an internship, an apprenticeship, an extra-curricular activity, a volunteer experience, an employer presenting to a class, a field trip, or a job shadowing experience. There are a variety of programs available that have different placement lengths and learning goals. This means that you’ll be able to find a learning program that fits your individual career goals. 

Why Choose Co-op? 

For Secondary Students: 

Enhanced Resume and Job Prospects: 

Finding those first work experiences required to craft a strong resume can be difficult as a high school student, but taking on experiential learning opportunities early can help you build up your resume and make it stand out to prospective employers. Co-op experience showcases a candidate’s proactive approach to learning and their ability to apply knowledge in a practical setting. Co-op experiences are a testament to a student’s commitment to professional development, significantly enhancing their desirability in the job market. 

Testing Career Paths: 

Co-op serves as a testing ground for career exploration. Students get to experience the day-to-day realities of different roles within their field, helping them make informed decisions about their future career paths. This exposure aids in refining career goals and ensures that students enter the workforce with a clear understanding of their professional aspirations. For high school students, it can be an even more important step to rule out their likes and dislikes when it comes to different sectors and roles. 

Gaining Industry-Relevant Skills: 

While textbooks provide a solid foundation, nothing beats the practical skills acquired in a workplace setting. Co-op experiences expose students to industry-specific tools, technologies, and workflows, equipping them with the skills demanded by employers. This not only boosts their confidence but also makes them more marketable in a competitive job landscape. 

Increased Confidence and Adaptability: 

Navigating the professional realm during a co-op fosters adaptability and resilience. Students encounter real-world challenges, problem-solving on the fly and learning to thrive in dynamic work environments. This experience cultivates a level of confidence that is invaluable as students transition into their full-time careers. 

For Postsecondary Students: 

Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice: 

Co-op programs provide students with a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge acquired in classrooms and its practical application in real-world scenarios. This hands-on experience not only enhances understanding but also allows students to witness the direct impact of their academic learning on tangible projects and daily tasks. For postsecondary students, this provides you with the crucial practical skills required to apply the knowledge that you have received throughout your academic career.  

Networking Opportunities: 

One of the invaluable benefits of co-op is the chance to build a professional network. Students working in a co-op capacity interact with professionals in their field, fostering connections that can lead to mentorship, job opportunities, and a deeper understanding of the industry landscape. These connections often prove instrumental as students transition from school to the workforce. 

High Success Rate: 

Co-op has a high success rate in our community. Of 61 local employers consulted, 77% have participated in an experiential learning opportunity with students, of those employers 36% had hired a student after their placement. For postsecondary students, 63% of people who took an experiential learning placement found employment after graduation. Making a good impression in your placement will give you a great chance of getting hired on as a full-time member of their team.  

What do the programs look like? 

Specialist High Skills Major Program (SHSM): 

  • Consider joining a Specialist High Skills Major Program at your school in grade 11 or 12. 
  • Participating will allow you to gain hands-on experience in an industry that interests you and will also provide additional certifications to help you start working with the right skills and learn more about what a career in the industry looks like. 
  • You will be required to complete 8-10 courses in your chosen field, with the option to complete a co-op placement component.  
  • You will work toward required certifications that will set you up for success in your chosen field.  

Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP): 

  • If you are interested in working in a skilled trade, consider joining the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP). 
  • The program allows you to start earning work and training hours while still in high school.  
  • You can start a work placement in grade 11 that contributes to working toward a Certificate of Apprenticeship or a Red Seal certification, as well as your high school diploma. 

Student Work Placement Program (SWPP): 

  • The Student Work Placement Program is designed to give post-secondary students across Canada paid work experience related to their field of study. 
  • The program is delivered through Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), which works with Employer Delivery Partners. Employer Delivery Partners are a group of recognized associations and organizations that represent the interests of employers in industries. 
  • The SWPP gives current postsecondary students the opportunity to engage with their field of study, graduate from their program with valuable real-world experience, and make crucial connections to employers and organizations to set them apart as a qualified candidate.  

A Pathway to Success!

Making the choice to enroll in an experiential learning program will give you the opportunity to put yourself ahead of the competition before you graduate high school. You can gain valuable, real-world experience in your chosen field that you can use to build up your resume all while working toward your high school diploma. 

If you feel that co-op is a great fit for you, reach out to your principal, or guidance counselor so that you can be connected to a placement opportunity and check out the opportunities available on our Open Doors board here: www.workforcewindsoressex.com/open-doors

Please email us:  srobson@workforcewindsoressex.com with any questions/comments!