Megan Reeves (left) and Demetre Kontos

Megan Reeves (left) and Demetre Kontos

Forum gives students a voice

The BC Student Voice Okanagan Region Forum brings students from Vernon and Coldstream high schools together to share, talk and ask questions

Young people can get tired of the question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Still, the time comes when they have to start thinking about the answer.

The BC Student Voice Okanagan Region Forum “Voice on Transitions Post Graduation” brought together students from area high schools to brainstorm, hear a panel of experts and ask questions about choices and decisions after graduation.

Student Voice has forums around the province with the information gathered being forwarded to the Ministry of Education for consideration in curriculum planning.

“They really want to know what you have to say and they are interested,” Malcolm Reid, principal of Vernon secondary, told the students.

The day started with a mixer that had students with the names of famous people and characters stuck on their foreheads and then having to ask questions to find their “identity,” a fun task they quickly accomplished.

Then it was down to preparing their questions for the panel of community experts: Dalvir Nahal, Vernon City Council; Bill Grahn, labour force northern; Catherine Bariesheff, Tolko Industries; and Kim Strilchuk,  academic advisor, Okanagan College. Each panel member spoke about their experiences and knowledge before taking questions from the students.

“Take your education into your own hands. Now is the time you can do that,” said Strilchuk. “Start with your ideas and get information and advice about where that could lead you. Take a first year to figure out what you want to do and be open to new subjects you have never taken before and new careers you might not have heard of. Start when you are ready. Take a gap year if necessary and then study at the pace that fits your lifestyle.

“Challenge yourself with learning and get help, counselling or tutoring, when you need it. Talk to people about experiences and opportunities and enjoy your journey along the way.”

Bariesheff, a Seaton grad, took the business management program at UBC-O and is now in human resource recruitment for Tolko Industries.

“From an employer perspective, it is very important for potential employees to have education beyond high school. That can be college or university, or trades and technical certification. Research the specific programs needed for the career you want,” she said.

“Look into job shadowing, co-op programs, summer employment or volunteering to find out more about the career you want. It will build your resumé. Always be willing to learn and set goals that will take you toward your dream job.”

Grahn spoke about career opportunities in the north of the country.

“I have a confession to make. I hated school but I was fascinated by machinery and mechanics and worked in industry in different aspects for many years,” he said. “There are many sides to the oil industry in the north, from planning, construction, maintenance and research, requiring many different skills. I have also worked in agriculture and transportation which are becoming more high tech and there is always a shortage of skilled tradespeople. Whether you go for more schooling or learn on the job, every job requires a set of skills and we need to appreciate that.”

Nahal, whose work experience includes banking and for the provincial government, was elected as a Vernon city councillor last fall.

“I wish I had gone to more education right after high school but I have decided this is the year I will go back and get a degree. Get your education in something you really want to do. Education is such a privilege that we have in this country that people in other countries don’t always have.”

The students then asked the panel members questions. (see sidebar)

Kai Rogers, a Grade 10 student at Kalamalka secondary, was one of the student organizers of the forum.

“I like Student Voice because it gives us a chance to be heard. I would say to students, whatever you are doing, get involved in your school, in clubs, sports teams, leadership, Student Voice, community projects, exchange programs. Help make your school a better place to learn.”

Kristen Morgan is a Seaton Grade 12 student. She said she was happy to be at the forum discussing these topics.

“Not enough adults pay enough attention to these transitions. We need information.”

The students then came up with their answers to the question, “What is currently implemented to post-secondary and career programs? What is Working? What is not working?

Some of the answers were about the Planning 10 course which gives information about post-secondary paths. Some of the students thought the planning should start sooner while others thought it might be more useful in Grade 11 or presented over two years. Students wanted to learn more about money management and more information on post-secondary education, both academic and non-academic, with more help on applying for scholarships and bursaries and writing resumés and cover letters. They liked the personality quiz in Planning 10 which gave ideas on possible careers to consider.

The Student Voice Forum concluded with a discussion about more effective grad transition/post-secondary planning programs.

Some of the questions and answers for the panel:

Q: What about trades programs?

A: There is high demand for all trades right now. The provincial government is offering many incentives for students who take trades programs.

Q: What is the biggest cause of failure in education?

A: Apathy. Not being ready. Unrealistic goals and expectations. Not having a good work ethic. Not being patient.

Q: What contributes to success in post-secondary education?

A: Attitude. Open-mindedness. Ask for advice. Making a second start if needed. Lose sense of entitlement — you’ve got to work hard for what you want.

Q: How do high school grades affect post-secondary education?

A: Good grades will help get you into the institution of your choice. But grades don’t necessarily show what you are capable of and post-secondary is a chance to make a fresh start. Post-secondary needs an attitude of thinking, curiosity and responsibility. That’s why mature students often do very well even if they did not get good grades in high school. You can make up courses.

Q: What can we do in school to help prepare students for post-secondary education?

A: Learn about jobs in the real world. Money management. Life isn’t fair, taking things too easy is not going to help you. Learn specific skills you can contribute as part of a larger project.