BY MOLLY MACNAUGHTON
DIGBY, NS – Digby Regional High School students attended an employer and youth networking event that was organized by Digby SchoolsPlus and the Options and Opportunities Program, in partnership with Nova Scotia Works-Digby.
The event at the Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa on May 27 began with an employer panel. The businesses and organizations on the panel included the Digby Pines Golf Resort & Spa, Department of Community Services, Army Reserves, Nova Scotia Health Authority and Boliver Service Center.
Grade 10 student Carissa Keller asked what skills the employers learned in high school that they use in the workplace. Digby Pines manager Rene LeBlanc said he learned analytical skills from studying chemistry and math in high school and university.
Jill-Marie Jacquard, Department of Community Services, said she learned a lot of skills on sports teams, such as teamwork and leadership.
“Hard work pays off and leads to great career opportunities. Dedication and commitment, they’re all good skills I learned in high school,” she said.
Jan Murley with Nova Scotia Works in Digby asked the employers about future opportunities for students. Dale Nichols, executive chef at the Digby Pines, said, “There are not a lot of students lining up for Culinary School. There are plenty of opportunities in the cooking industry.”
Sgt. Catherine Hunt noted the Canadian Armed Forces are always hiring.
Grade 12 student Taylon Addington thinks a networking event like this can help students in choosing a career path.
“It kind of gives you insight to all different kinds of fields. You can hear a little bit about each one, decide what you like the most,” Addington said.
Grade 11 student Alex Windsor agreed.
“You can find out what you actually want to do. You could go into one career and find out that you don't like it at all, and then go to one that you … really like that you never thought you would of.”
Grade 11 student Kassidy Stark said the event opened up new horizons about different career opportunities.
The event also included a youth panel that included Kelli Olsen, Taylon Addington, Mackenzie Vantassel, Molly MacNaughton, Mackenzie Whynot and Jacob Chisholm. Each student answered prepared questions and were asked impromptu questions from the employers.
Afterwards round table discussions were held, giving students a chance to visit three different stations for 15 minutes to discuss different types of career opportunities. Industries and professions represented included tourism/hospitality, culinary arts, internet communications technology, legal/corrections, recreation, social work, marketing, carpentry, automotive, entrepreneurship/business, accounting, military, science, banking/financial, esthetics and cosmetology, and health care.
“Don't be scared to challenge yourself. Sometimes you hear stories of different kids looking for a job, or taking a career path one way, and are just scared to maybe take the next step, to try harder, to go for the biggest gusto, or the bigger apple, or the next degree, or … the next advancement,” said Jeremy Sanford from Sanford & Associates Chartered Professional Accountants Inc.
“Just don't be scared to keep on learning and challenging yourself,” he said. “Maybe you do one thing and go to one school for a couple of years and go in the workforce, but then maybe you want to go back if you're not thrilled and maybe you do something else. Keep advancing and keep challenging yourself.”
Rebecca LeBlanc from CIBC said the event didn’t just help students, but employers too as it gave insight on what students’ interests are. “We may need to change as, not necessarily a company, but maybe certain things that would appeal to millennials coming forward, like technology, different things like that,” she said.
Sonya Frost from Boliver’s Service Center said in school she had no clue what direction she wanted to go in. She attended university and college events, but they were more geared towards choosing a school, not choosing a career. Many schools now offer different programs like Options and Opportunities, co-op learning, test drive programs etc.
“My advice to all students is to take whatever opportunity you may have to do a co-op, O2 or volunteer placement,” she said. “Go to the networking events to make connections to employers, ask questions you may have to help educate yourself as much as you can.”
Morgan Dunn, who recently graduated from Acadia University with a Community Development Degree, said an event like this could have really guided her when she was in school. She did a co-op placement in high school with the Y-Reach Program. Even though it helped her find out where her interests were, it didn’t prepare her to find out what else was in the area.
“I feel like it would have been very, very, beneficial for me when I was younger to do this,” she said.
Jan Murley, who helped organize the event in partnership with Amy Theriault of Digby SchoolsPlus and Geraldine Amirault of the Options & Opportunities Program at DRHS, was pleased with the outcome.
“The attendance and youth engagement really exceeded my expectations for the event,” she said. “Our goal was to connect youth with a wide range of employment fields that were of interest to them and create an opportunity for students and employers to have open conversations about what it’s like to work in these various careers. I think we definitely accomplished what we set out to do.”
“There are so many options for careers and it can be a difficult decision for a lot of students.”
(Molly MacNaughton is a Digby Regional High School student doing some co-op assignments with the Tri-County Vanguard.)