The opportunity to succeed
For the first time in its history, CDEM's Premier Choix employability program hosted an entire class from Collège Louis-Riel.
Students enrolled in the grade 10-12-level class of the work-study program at Collège Louis-Riel (CLR) regularly made the trip to CDEM to attend the Premier Choix Destination emploi training. The employment training session combining theory and practical exercises was followed by a ten-week paid internship secured by the students during their training.
The initiative was new for both CLR and CDEM. "We've had an excellent partnership with CDEM over the past five years, but this was the first time we sent a full class," says Hitesh Raval, vice-principal of CLR. "In previous years, we started with a few students to see how it went and adjust the program accordingly. This year, we felt we were ready."
Left to right: Nicole Baudry, Gilles Labossière et Hitesh Raval
Raval believes that this partnership is especially valuable because "we have several students from Africa who can be up to seven years behind academically. We integrate them by giving them the theoretical foundations in the core courses and focus on preparing them to enter the job market at age 18. The support of an organization like CDEM is therefore critical in helping us help our students make the transition to employment."
For such students from diverse backgrounds for whom the school environment is less appropriate, the Premier Choix training followed by an internship is much more than just an experience, it is a chance for personal development.
"It gives many young people the opportunity to see that they, too, can experience success at something at the high school level," says Nicole Baudry, a teacher and counsellor in charge of the work-study program and internships. "Some even land a full-time job at the end of their internship and can bring money home, which does wonders for their self-esteem."
Gilles Labossière, a guidance counsellor at CLR, adds that "Destination Emploi offers all of the learning that is recognized in school credits, so the students aren't missing out on any of their education. It is really a win-win model."
Says vice-principal Raval: "We want to move away from the idea that all learning has to happen within school walls. Premier Choix is a school away from school for our students."
CLR also appreciates how the programs are customized. "The CDEM team has always taken the time to get to know our students and to accommodate us, for instance for the school buses," says Hitesh Raval. "They are also very connected with employers and can put our students in touch with them. We don't have to worry about finding them potential internships."
CDEM's proximity is another advantage. "Students taking the Premier Choix training can return to CLR to eat lunch with their friends over the noon hour," says Nicole Baudry. "That is very important socially, especially at their age."
Regardless of whether their internship leads to permanent employment, the students will definitely get a great deal out of their experience. "A sense of responsibility, maturity, pride, a desire to contribute to society…They are not the same afterwards!" says the vice-principal.