The Importance of Co-op Programs in...

The Importance of Co-op Programs in Ontario High Schools

by Meghan Brown
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

No one has their future all figured out while they’re in their teens.  You’re still learning new things about yourself, and still growing your knowledge and skills.  Yet it sometimes may seem as though your high school expects you to decide your whole career path before graduation.  It’s a daunting prospect.

While some students might know exactly what they want to do for higher education and eventually their career, that’s not the case for everyone.  So, what’s an uncertain student to do?

This is where a co-op program can come into play.

What is a Co-op Program?

Cooperative education programs are courses offered by high schools that enable students to explore options for their future careers while also earning credits toward their diploma.  Students taking a co-op program have the opportunity to learn about a job or workplace by engaging with it directly through a work placement.  This is combined with classroom learning or online learning, all of it overseen by a co-op teacher or guidance counsellor at your school.

Co-op placements are arranged by the school or school board connecting with local businesses in many different industries – such as many different trades, as well as healthcare, computer technology, performing or visual arts, education, hospitality, and many more.  Potential workplaces are vetted to ensure they will offer students a safe and accepting work environment, and must also adhere to policies and guidelines from the Ministry of Education.

Why You Should Consider a Co-op Program

Taking a credit or two of co-op during high school offers plenty of benefits to students.  First and foremost, a co-op placement lets you “try before you buy” in a sense, allowing students to engage with a specific potential career to learn whether or not it’s something they would like to do in the future.  It can be hard to know whether you’ll enjoy certain types of work unless you have the chance to try it out, and finding out you hate it after being hired for a job isn’t ideal.  In this way, co-op programs can help students make decisions about their future career path.

With a co-op program, students have the chance to learn about daily work tasks, and the workplace environment, and have the opportunity to speak with lots of people who work in the same job or industry.  It’s also an opportunity to apply your classroom learning in real-life situations, which helps students better understand and retain the information they’ve learned.  While the are some exceptions, most co-op programs prefer students to be in grade 11 or 12 before registering.  You can also complete co-op programs after completing the requirements for graduation, but before moving on to post-secondary education or the workforce.

Co-op programs are available for students in any study track – essential, college, or university level – and with any post-graduation direction, whether that’s more school or into the workplace.  For students who are pretty sure they don’t want to go the full academic route through university and would rather go into the trades, a co-op during school can potentially lead to an apprenticeship after graduation.  In some cases, your co-op can work in conjunction with the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program. Because a co-op program is part of your high school curriculum, the hours will be scheduled during your regular school day, which ensures there are no conflicts for students who don’t have the time for a part-time job (for example, due to family commitments) or who do have an after-school job already.

Co-op placements help students build the important skills they will need in their future careers, whether or not they end up in the same field.  One of the hardest parts of job hunting as a young adult is building work experience when you may not have had a full-time or part-time job before.  But a co-op placement provides the opportunity to develop good workplace etiquette, and soft skills such as communication and decision-making, and gives you some solid real-life work experience to put on your resume.

If you’re interested in a co-op program, talk to your teachers and guidance counsellor, who can share the details of how your school’s program works and what you’ll need to do to get started.





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