Co-op Students Benefit

Chamber Promotes Regional Work Experience With Student

Taking her knowledge from the classroom and applying it to a position with the Trail & District Chamber of Commerce has given co-op student Melanie Field practical experience in her field of study and the confidence to hone her skills in a supportive, real-world environment.

The UBCO student is working toward a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a focus in Human Resources. With Field currently fulfilling her second work term as the organization’s Administrative Assistant, the Chamber is benefitting from her energetic and efficient work ethic

“I highly recommend employers hire a co-op student; they come equipped with a fresh perspective, can-do attitude, and the ability to navigate technology with ease,” says Executive Director Erika Krest. “It’s also an opportunity to foster a young learner and provide hands-on experience that’ll help shape their future.”

Co-op education integrates students’ academic studies with periods of related work experience. Since she started at the Chamber, Field has been actively involved in numerous tasks and initiatives, including composing letters for members and stakeholders, conducting surveys, creating PowerPoint presentations, drafting grant letters, supporting a policy resolution, and helping produce the 2020 Business Walk.

“To be completely honest, I didn’t have the slightest idea how much the Chamber of Commerce actually does for the business community. I’ve been involved in developing countless ideas and projects, each with their own processes and outcomes,” explains Field. “To see the Chamber’s inner workings and operations is beyond fascinating and rewarding.”

While Field has returned home from UBCO to Warfield to pursue her co-op experience, many students in the South Kootenay fulfill their work experiences under Selkirk College’s Co-op Education program.

Colin Jaeck, who is working toward a Bachelor of Geographic Information Systems at Selkirk, was hired as a web developer assistant at a local organization in the fall of 2020.

“I’ve learned a lot about web development, and I’ve had a chance to really dig into some internet mapping,” he explains. “The work term ties beautifully into my field of study and future plan.”

This year marks 35 years for Selkirk’s Education and Employment Services Department, which has connected more than 1,400 students in the co-op program with over 150 employers locally and provincially.

Selkirk College links employers with highly qualified students and graduates from various programs, offering a variety of skill sets. Hiring a co-op student is an effective way to retain local talent and strengthen the talent pool for future hires, according to Celine Duarte, Selkirk’s Co-op faculty advisor.

“At Selkirk College`s Co-op department, we’re proud to be part of the students’ learning journey, support local employers’ hiring needs, and contribute to building the talent pipeline for the region,” she says.

While co-op experience isn’t mandatory for most programs, it’s available for many students looking to align their field of study with a paid work term. Selkirk’s program requires students to work full-time for a minimum of 12 weeks or 420 hours, mirroring the academic calendar. Employers can view and post directly to the co-op board themselves or work with Selkirk College on the application process.

“We encourage students to participate because it gives them experiential learning opportunities while helping employers deal with short-term projects or workloads,” adds Kim Pham from Co-op Education and Employment Services at Selkirk College. A former co-op student herself, Pham can attest to opportunities arising out of work experiences, which often pave the way to finding work locally rather than relocating.

Krest agrees, citing the importance of employing youth within the community is two-fold. “Not only is it vital for our economy’s talent pool, but it keeps their dollars local, too. Encouraging young people to stay and make local purchases creates a huge economic impact; for every dollar spent in the community, up to 63 cents stays here. This creates up to 4.6 times the economic impact over money spent at non-local businesses.”

Field certainly seems to have found her groove and is enjoying her work experience with the Chamber.

“I love communications, and this co-op position has given me plenty of assignments that challenge me to improve my writing,” she adds. “I’m thankful for everyone’s support throughout my work term and for the Chamber’s continuous advocacy for our local business community.”


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