The Next Generation: Preparing CAREERS for the leaders of tomorrow
They do exactly what their name suggests. CAREERS – The Next Generation – is an integral part of preparing the next generation of careers in our region.
Founded provincially and locally in 1997, CAREERS is a “provincial, non-profit organization providing awareness, exploration and experience in the trades, technologies and health occupations,” explains Elaine Read, Regional Director, NE.
Reid, who has been with CAREERS for over four years, adds the “ultimate goal is to connect students with employers for paid internships. We deliver presentations to all junior and senior high schools and offer exploration activities where students can test different careers through hands-on activities and speak with experts.”
The group does so also through their flagship annual event CAREERexpo, when hundreds of local grade 10 students gather to learn more about skilled careers. In addition, initiatives like the HealthExpo, Health Academy, Young Women in Trades & Technologies (YWITT) Camp, Learning Circles, and Forestry Quick Connects provides a plethora of job specific information.
“This year we had over 900 students at CAREERexpo, and 44 careers were showcased. The event allows students to explore careers by exposing them to interactive booths where exhibitors speak about their career, required education, things they like about their job, things they wished they’d realized before going into this career, etc. Employers commented on the high level of student engagement, eagerness and interaction; seeing student’s eyes light up, and the community engagement with schools and employers,” explains Reid.
CAREERS surveys from the event showed that only 59 percent of students have a career plan. While 77 percent plan on attending university, college, or an apprenticeship program; 23 percent had no idea what they are going to do. Students identified that they found the CAREERexpo useful for career planning, increased awareness of career options, information on post-secondary programs, and meeting prospective employers.
Indeed, CAREERS is a major link between employers and their next generation of workers. Whether it is the oil sands, or social profits, youth are placed across the region in what could very well become a future vocation, often starting out as a summer job.
Syncrude is one of those major employers, and helped found CAREERS: The Next Generation after identifying a shortage of skilled trades. “But the organization does far more than simply promoting the trades,” says Jerry McPherson, Syncrude’s Vice President, Maintenance & Projects.
“This program has been successful because it teaches youth the tools they need to build rewarding careers and provides real on-the-job training,” says McPherson, who also sits on CAREERS’ board of directors.
“In Syncrude’s case, we make 90 co-op positions, 40 spots for students in the Registered Apprenticeship Program, four spots for power engineering students and placements for Indigenous students each year.
CAREERS helps us identify the perfect fit by pre-screening and vetting suitable candidates.”
Many of the students who work on Syncrude’s sites as co-op students and apprentices wind up graduating as full-time employees. “Nothing prepares people for working for us better than having that hands-on experience as a student,” notes McPherson.
Syncrude provides $100,000 annually to help fund CAREERS. “Given how many great people have come to us through the program, it really is a great investment,” he adds.
Reid comments, having these partnerships with employers, educators, government, and funders is nothing short of a blessing.
“In our last fiscal year, we had 68 unique employers that provided 299 student internships. Our employers are committed to our programs and see the value in mentoring and nurturing our region’s future workforce. They are ambassadors, share best practices, and truly embrace the vitality and skills youth bring to the workplace. Based on employer needs, this fiscal year CAREERS will also be introducing students to a new career pathway in NDT (Non-Destructive Testing). In addition, a pilot program for ICT (Information Communication Technology) was tested in Fort McMurray and will now be expanded to Calgary this year.”
CAREERS also increases participation among under-represented groups in trades, technologies and health through tailored programs such as the Indigenous Youth Career Pathways and Young Women in Trades and Technologies.
Speaking of participation, the organization also monitors industry demands, and trends to ensure students are aligned with what is needed, and gaps are filled in a timely fashion. Reid says at the moment one such workforce gap is a shortage of mental health workers across the region.
“CAREERS is working with the Red Cross to develop a course, Mental Health Pathway, offering high school students the chance to learn about things such as general psychology and health & wellness. Students who take the course will be given priority for mental health internships through CAREERS to help them explore the many opportunities right here in their own community.”
For more information, visit careersnextgen.ca.
In Wood Buffalo, CAREERS successfully:
- Brought career awareness to over 3000 students
- Offered exploration activities to over 2,100 students; including CAREERexpo, Health Camp, YWITT Camp, Career Fairs, Learning Circles, etc.
- Placed close to 300 students in internships in our last fiscal year (2017-18):
- Trades: 215 students in RAP & CO-OP
- Technologies: 12 students (Water Wastewater Operator: 8 students; Power Engineering: 4 students)
- Health: 27 students
- Forestry: 1 student
- Indigenous Career Pathways: 11 students
- Rebuild Home Construction & Scaffolding: 33 students
Rural students explore careers in Art, Forestry, Environment, Electrical and Chef in the Learning Circle initiative.
Industry partners gather together; Jim Wall of NorCan Electric, Greg Tolson of Tridon Communications, George Purves of RoughRider International, Claire Hart of Suncor Energy and Dwayne Cole of Suncor Energy.
Fort McKay students explored the carpentry trade at Keyano College and built shelving units for their classrooms. Supplied Photos