By: Jennifer Wallace

The Develop Mentor program at Algonquin provides Aboriginal students with employment coaching and an eight week work experience at Tim Hortons.

“This program helps students gain more work experience relevant to the social aspect of employment and to prepare students to become employment ready,” said Sylvie Robineau, a job coach for the Develop Mentor program located in the college’s Mamidosewin Centre. She works one on one with First Nations, Metis and Inuit students with individualized coaching to prepare them for their paid part time work experience.

The difference with this program from other employment services offered at the college is that Aboriginal students who use the service can apply these same skills to other work places.

In time, the goal is to develop something that helps with transferrable skills, but students can still use any of the skills they’re currently learning in their education.

“Some students may have had a poor work experience and want to turn their unfortunate experience into a good one; they don’t want to repeat the same experiences,” Robineau said in describing the need for the program.

Students develop skills such as working in a fast-paced environment and under pressure, time and stress management, customer service, confidence, patience, problem solving, taking initiative and how to balance work, social and academic life.

“We train students on things like showing up on time and ‘pre-employment’ skills,” said Martha Marr, a Project Manager for Workforce and Personal Development Center.

The job coach works closely with both the Aboriginal student and the Corporate partner.

“Some students come into the program with or without work experience, some volunteer experience and some have work placement experience through their education,” Robineau said.

While WPD runs many different programs, it was actually the Tim Hortons Corporation, which originally contacted the college, which suggested starting the program.

The feedback from Tim Hortons has been extremely positive, said Robineau.

The program is structured to be completely workplace oriented and uses educational tools to help focus the students on real-world work habits.

“You learn when you work,” Marr said.

“We have an initial formal session which indicates which areas the student needs to be coached on and to become employment ready,” Robineau said.

One of Robineau’s Powerpoints is called “Ways to shine as an employee,” which teaches students how to make a good first impression.
The program is very individualized with things such as self-assessment quizzes, videos; elements that make it enjoyable for the student.

“The goal of the program is for students to become successful in their work experience and in life,” said Robineau.