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Getting a head start

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If you’re not sure what kind of work you’d like to do, there’s nothing like trying out the real thing.

That idea has been propelling an increasing number of Maples Collegiate students to the school’s Career Start program, and the latest class showcased its experiences at Garden City Shopping Centre on Jan. 24.

The program held its annual project fair at the mall, where they displayed final projects that spoke to their experiences at work placements where they spent many hours over the course of a semester.

"It provides students with the opportunity to explore careers or other job-related activities," explained Vern Zatwarnicki, instructor for the program.

Students spend the first several weeks of the program building their resume, reviewing workplaces and going for interviews, and then spend about 10 weeks in their job placements.

Depending on a student’s interests, Zatwarnicki said they can be placed at a wide range of businesses, from veterinarian clinics to auto parts dealers to department stores.

"If it’s not a good experience, they have an opportunity to go find another location," he said.

"We’ve got a selection of maybe 40 places in the area."

The program’s strength, he said, is in its ability to get kids a foot in the door in the job market, where they might have had difficulty getting part-time work before.

"They’ve garnered some experience and were able to improve their skill set," he said.

In exchange for their co-operation, the businesses get a plug during the fair. Zatwarnicki said the students’ presentations are tailored to closely resemble the logos and colour schemes of the places they worked. The list of businesses taking part is growing along with the class size, with newcomers including D’Arcy Bain Physiotherapy and Sirens.

"There’s lots of retail places (getting involved)," Zatwarnicki said.

Student Molly Bittern spent her placement at Forest Park Community School, working with elementary students. Her display described the experience as a dream come true, reaffirming her choice to work with kids.

"I want to work in a daycare," she told The Times.

"(The experience) was good, it taught me how to communicate better."

Zatwarnicki said the fair is the students’ final project in lieu of an exam. Now five years old, the Career Start Program is only growing, with this past semester’s class totalling 24 students. It’s a big mark of success for Zatwarnicki.

"It’s part of the fabric of Maples now. Kids are signing up on their own, instead of being recommended by teachers," he said.

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