School to Work
Whether you plan to go to college or university, or you want to get right into the workplace after high school, there is co-operative education, internship, and apprenticeship programs all designed to aid students in making the transition from school to the workforce.
Co-operative Education programs are available at the secondary and post-secondary levels. High school co-ops earn you credits toward your high school diploma, and provide you with first-hand experience in a potential career. Skills learned through a co-op also help to build up your resume, which will help you with future schooling or job applications. Check with your guidance counsellor to arrange a co-op program. Usually a teacher must monitor these programs, and provide a study curriculum related to your co-op work placement.
Post-secondary co-op programs exist through many of Canada’s universities and colleges. These offer an educational experience combining work placements and academic studies. These tend to be complete degree or diploma programs, requiring formal enrollment in the program the same as any other college or university degree. Co-op programs may take longer to complete than a standard degree, since the work placements are interspersed between your class semesters. These programs are a great way to get hands-on experience in your chosen field, which will give you a competitive edge when applying for jobs after graduation.
Internships operate a bit differently than a co-op. Many internships are posted, and applied for, in the same way regular jobs are: you need to apply with a resume and cover letter, perform an interview, and get hired for the position. Internships are great for students and recent graduates because you have a chance to work at a job to see if it is right for you, without committing to a permanent position, since most internships are only a few months or a year in length. Also, more awareness of un-paid internships is being recognized and in the future, laws may change to benefit the intern more than the corporation they are working at. When you become an intern, make sure you are getting what you deserve and want out of the internship; it needs to benefit the next step in your career path. There are too many grads walking around busting their backs for companies that do not pay them, or don’t pay them enough.
Lastly, if you plan to go into one of the skilled trades, an apprenticeship is the way to go. Apprenticeships differ from co-ops and internships in that most of your learning takes place as a paid working apprentice, where you learn on the job in order to develop and refine the technical skills specific to that particular trade. Only a small part of an apprenticeship is comprised of class time, usually taking place at a technical school, union training centre, or through online study. You do have to register with your local or provincial apprenticeship office, who will help you track your hours, inform you of grants to help pay for your apprenticeship, and assist you in obtaining your professional certifications.
While asking your school guidance department, and family or friends, are good places to start your search for a co-op, internship, or apprenticeship, there are also a number of online resources dedicated to helping Canadian students connect with these opportunities.
Canadian Association for Co-operative Education
Public Service Commission of Canada – Post Secondary Co-op and Internship Program
Careers in Trades
Government of Canada Services for Youth