By Myriah Saulnier
A program which offers employment opportunities and job coaching to Aboriginal first-generation students attending Algonquin College just received a special Chair’s Award from the International Partnership Network (IPN).
The college, in partnership with Tim Hortons Canada, has created the developMENTOR program for First Nation, Métis and Inuit students to help prepare them to be successful in the workplace.
Students who enroll in the program are given training, coaching and feedback to ready them for part-time work that fits within their academic schedule.
“There is a uniqueness with this program in the partnership because it’s almost like a triangle relationship between the job seeker, the job employer and the job coach,” said Joanne McDonald, manager of Career Services and Welcome Centre. “It is not one-sided, there is communication between the three parties involved and it helps to make this program successful.”
According to Dwight Powless, Aboriginal community liaison and one of the coordinators of the developMENTOR program, having a successful first working experience and postsecondary experience is critical to having a successful career, which is part of the reasoning behind starting the program.
“When you have a positive experience on your first job, that positive experience will lead you to get another job and you will go into it with a more positive attitude,” said Powless.
McDonald said the lack of experience can be intimidating for these students, which is why the program works so well specifically for first-generation students.
“These students now have the opportunity to learn exactly what the expectations are when you are transitioning into the labour market,” said McDonald. “Because it is one-on-one training we are really putting our time and energy into the individual.”
The employment coach works closely with the employer as well as the student during the experimental phase of the program, and reinforces important lessons or behaviours learned if necessary. This is essential for success, which has been 100 per cent so far according to Powless.
“It works out because we are helping these students in more than one way,” he said. “This group has a lot of financial restraints so giving these students the opportunity for a part-time job helps to ensure they can stay and complete their programs.”
According to Algonquin College public relations and communications webpage, the developMENTOR program has helped 30 students so far, and the coordinators are in the process of looking at other employers who are interested in getting involved in the program.
“The students who are walking away successful from the program are bringing with them a skill-set they will be able to apply throughout their lives, in their academic studies, their careers and their personal lives,” McDonald said.