College working with students, employers and communities to enhance co-op opportunities for Indigenous learners
How can Okanagan College enhance support for Indigenous students stepping into co-op work terms with employers? And in turn, how can OC better assist employers looking to hire students and set them up for success during their time in the workforce?
These are just two of many questions inspiring Jewell Gillies as she consults with students, employers, other post-secondary institutions and Indigenous community members in the region and beyond as part of a 15-month long research project.
“This project delves into many aspects of co-operative education or work-integrated learning, with the goal of better understanding Indigenous students’ experiences, what their questions and concerns are,” she explains. “These conversations with students and community are invaluable – they are helping to shape recommendations for how we can better serve Indigenous students and our employer partners.”
Gillies is drawing on years of experience in supporting Indigenous learners in post-secondary.
She’s worked with the College since 2017 as an Aboriginal Transitions Planner. The service improvement project finds her currently supporting the Student, Graduate & Co-op Employment office.
She was in the planning stages for the project when COVID-19 arrived, but she says the pandemic has presented a speedbump rather than a stop sign, as she’s been able to continue her outreach virtually.
Response to her efforts has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I’ve been really struck by the positive response. I wasn’t sure initially how employers might respond but they’ve been very keen to engage with the work,” says Gillies.
“Many are very appreciative of the opportunity to hear what others are doing and to gain insight into best practices they can put in place to better support Indigenous employees. Many are also looking for ways to support their non-Indigenous employees in learning about and engaging with Indigenous culture.”
The project received funding from the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training for work integrated learning initiatives.
Gillies says she’s encouraged by the way in which the project has also been an opportunity for the College to build on existing relationships with employers, and to foster new relationships.
The challenges of remote working and learning during the pandemic hasn’t stopped students from voicing their experiences and perspectives Gillies is pleased to report.
“I want to hear from any OC students and alumni who self-identify as Indigenous and who are interested in sharing their thoughts or questions about work-integrated learning,” she says.
“We are calling it a survey, but in truth it’s a conversation. Some conversations happened in person before the pandemic, but whether it’s a phone call or an online video chat, it’s about two people hearing each other’s voices, sharing and learning from each other’s experiences and perspectives.”
One of those students who has been a contributor of insights and a keen supporter of the project has been OC business student Jillian Seronik.
A strong advocate for inclusivity in the classroom, Seronik notes that she hopes her experiences could inspire other Indigenous students to follow in her footsteps in pursuing post-secondary studies and thinking about co-op.
“I never thought I’d do a co-op but a friend of mine encouraged me and I’m so glad I did,” explains Seronik, who completed a term with RBC in Kelowna during the Winter semester and was hired back for the summer.
“My co-op experience has been great. RBC has been great to work for. I’ve personally felt supported and that they care for their employees,” says Seronik. “They have initiatives for their Indigenous employees. I’ve also really appreciated and seized opportunities to share my culture with my non-Indigenous colleagues.”
Seronik also credits her co-op experience in helping her identify her goals after graduation: she now hopes to find a role within RBC in HR or Marketing.
“I’ve been excited to share my experience because I think there needs to be more support, encouragement and opportunities for Indigenous youth to get into co-op.”
Anyone wishing to connect with Gillies to learn more about the project or engage in the consultation process, can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 778-715-6864.
Sunday, June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada.
Tags: Student, Student, Graduate and Co-op Employment, Indigenization
October 7, 2020
What is your full name? Ruby Denise Pahtayken, kîhew Iskwēw- ᑭᐦᐁᐤ ᐃᐢᑫᐧᐤ. What program are you enrolled in at Okanagan College? Culinary Arts, currently in Professional Cook Level 2 for 2020. Where is your hometown? Onion Lake Cree Nation, Saskatchewan. Wîhcêkaskosîwî - Sâkahikanihk What brought you to OC? Why did you come to Kelowna to study? In pursuing my culinary career, I moved to Kelowna. I love that I come from the beautiful Cree plains and moved to a different territory. I w...Read more...
September 3, 2020
For students navigating stepping into a new semester amid a time of uncertainty and anxiety around COVID, Okanagan College’s Counselling Services team is creating a new opportunity to connect and build resilience. GROW @ OC is the College’s newest counselling initiative, an online drop-in group to learn practical tools and strategies to become a more proactive student. Designed directly for OC students by OC counsellors, the six workshops offered throughout the fall semester focus on setting students up for success amid a semester during w...Read more...
September 2, 2020
Okanagan College will welcome back students with a range of virtual and in-person physically-distanced, curbside Orientation Day activities next week – all geared toward making them feel connected and starting their post-secondary experience off on a positive note. “Okanagan College is about people – our students, and employees coming together in a truly supportive community,” said Meri Kim Oliver, OC’s Vice President Students. “As much as COVID-19 has changed how we connect, all OC campuses are committed developing the best student experie...Read more...
August 31, 2020
Okanagan College is waiving parking fees for students this coming semester. “Many of our students will be learning online or via remote delivery this fall, and we expect that those who are on campus for experiential learning in labs or shops may be spending less time on campus than normal,” explains Curtis Morcom, OC’s Vice President Employee and Corporate Services. “In light of that, we wanted to take this step to pass on some savings to students, which we hope will be a welcome relief.” Students can park for free and do not have to displa...Read more...