*This article was compiled before the restrictions surrounding COVID-19 were put into place and permission was given to The Employment Journey to publish as is.
by Gloria Welton
A career day with a twist in Summerside was an opportunity for Academy Diploma Program students from three high schools in Prince County to work with representatives from various careers.
The second-annual International World of Choices career mentoring event was emceed by Comedian Patrick Ledwell. “Rather than leaning back and listening to people talk about their career path, this is a lean-in for students to be presented with a challenge, have input on how it can be addressed, and bring a new perspective.”
The day was coordinated by Junior Achievement (JA) and Glenna Lohnes, Academy Diploma Program Facilitator for the PEI Department of Education and Lifelong Learning. “Professionals from various fields worked closely with a group of students over the course of the day,” says Glenna. “Students collaborated with peers from other schools to solve an actual challenge the professionals are facing.”
Junior Achievement (JA) is an international non-profit organization working in partnership with educators, volunteers, and businesses to educate students about financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship. “On PEI, more than 5,800 students are enrolled in JA programs for the 2019/20 school year,” says Glenna.
A look at the high school students, their mentors, and solutions to challenges
The mentor: Andrew Lawless, Manager and President of Hilltop Produce LTD, is a third-generation potato farmer and entrepreneur from Kinkora. He is involved in multiple businesses and was named Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmer in 2014.
The challenge: how farmers can address climate change.
Students’ suggestions: The students focused on how farmers could use resources and pesticides in a more environmentally friendly and cost efficient way. The students also suggested training employees to work harder to be more efficient.
The mentor: Dr. Heather Pringle, Veterinarian and Biology/Environmental Science Teacher at Three Oaks Senior High School (TOSH).
The challenge: How to engage youth on the effects of climate change.
Students’ suggestions: Climate change concerns discussed included rising sea levels, crop failure, air pollution, waste reduction, and poisoning of the oceans. The students felt that denial of climate change needs to be addressed with the general public and government, and said people must be made aware of our resources and how to maintain and protect them.
The mentor: Keilah Bias, Industrial Engineer with Standard Aero.
The challenge: The shortage of staff in the aerospace industry.
Students’ suggestions: A shift is public perception is needed to encourage the general public to consider trades as a career option. We need to address misconceptions that the aerospace industry has highly stressful work settings and is a male dominated industry. They proposed developing more Island high school programs such as at the Technical Trades Centre at TOSH. Introduce summer programs and school speakers to help students explore career options. Encourage more females to enter the industry by offering bursaries and advertising more. Introduce more Newcomers to the industry. Address the housing shortage on PEI. Promote the wages and compensation compared to other industries. Companies should consider subsidizing students in training.
The mentor: Sherri Mitchell, Financial Advisor with RBC, started with the company 10 years ago and has moved from Casual Teller, to Business Account Manager, to Branch Manager.
The challenge: How to get youth interested and engaged in banking.
Students’ suggestions: Young people are intimidated by the banking industry. Develop an App that youth could explore and have fun with.
The mentor: Trevor Morash, Human Resource Associate with BioVectra Inc.
The challenge: The high cost of hiring new staff who do not stay for the long-term.
Students’ suggestions: Attract the younger generation by using social media such as Tik Tok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and find ways to help them feel comfortable in the work setting. Continuing education is a way to retain staff for the long-term. Create a workplace community by cross-training and holding events to draw people together. Offer flexible work hours and vacation time, and encourage a healthy work/life balance. Make presentations in high school, colleges, and universities. Benefits such as gym memberships, pension plans, retirement packages, and health and dental plans were seen as essential.
The mentor: Tina Dickieson, Executive Director of CBDC Central, has more than 20 years of business experience. She began her career at a top international accounting firm in Alberta where she honed her financial management skills.
The challenge: Owners of a local seasonal business in operation for 20 years had to retire and close the business because they could not find enough kitchen staff.
Students’ suggestions: Partner with other restaurants to share staff. Advertise more through social media to attract the right age groups. Find a young social media manager who will appeal to the younger generation. Implement a year-round plan to boost awareness such as holding job fairs and maintaining a social media presence.
The mentor: Alex MacKenzie, Human Resource Coordinator for the Tourism Industry Association of PEI (TIAPEI).
The challenge: Attracting people to the culinary sector on PEI.
Students’ suggestions: Get youth interested in the industry, and encourage the older generation to realize it is never too late to become a chef. Break stereotypes by bringing chefs to schools, demonstrate what it is like to work in a kitchen, and show them that not all chefs are like the angry people portrayed on reality shows. Get the word out there about the life of being a chef and help people to decide if it is a fit for them. Showcase chefs and where the jobs are on PEI and how to get started in this industry. Develop an accelerated course to enter the field faster. Hold live demonstrations at job fairs. Hold surveys before and after job fairs to gauge people’s opinions about the industry, and learn from each event. Offer more scholarships to help students of the Culinary Institute pay for tuition. Address the kitchen work environment with air conditioning and reduced work hours.