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Elementary school students attended a tour of The NB Box facilities in Saint John with Centre of Excellence for Entrepreneurship Lead, Jill Shaw in spring of 2023.

How Employers Can Connect with Students through the Centres of Excellence

By Sponsored Nov 9, 2023 | 12:00 AM

Exposure to career pathways through experiential and virtual learning can provide K-12 students with tools, perspectives, and insights to help them determine their next steps following graduation.

The Centres of Excellence (COEs) support Future New Brunswick’s K-12 initiative by helping students in the Anglophone school sector discover what they are passionate about. The first Centre of Excellence, the COE for Energy, was launched three years ago. Since then, the initiative has grown and there are now four additional Centres, focusing on Health and Social Care, Entrepreneurship, Digital Innovation and Skilled Trades and Manufacturing.

All COE experiences are connected directly to New Brunswick curricula and aim to provide equitable access across the Province. The experiences are designed to enhance student learning, support teacher practices, all while helping partner organizations achieve their own goals. COEs work with partners to ensure outcomes and actions are mutually beneficial.

For example, when students of all ages and grades visit Shannex nursing homes, everyone benefits.

“It could be an organized Halloween or Valentine’s Day event, and these residents certainly light up at just the thought of knowing that these students are coming in to share their light and share their exuberance,” boasted Michelle Smith, former educational program, and partnership coordinator for Shannex who recently transitioned to the new role of Restorative LPN at Shannex. “We have students as young as in kindergarten entering some of our communities and experiencing intergenerational connections. It gives them the opportunity to see what we have to offer and what a career in the caregiving sector could look like. This exposure is very important for the employer as well because students may decide to come back and work with Shannex,” said Smith.

The partnerships with the Centres allow partners to showcase their value as an employer.

“The Centres of Excellence play a valuable role in providing students with exposure to current and future careers that are important and relevant to New Brunswick, and to experiences that help them discover what they are passionate about,” explained Ransford Lockhart, Associate Director for the System Excellence and Innovation unit within New Brunswick’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. “An example of this would be NB Power, who has been a great partner over the last couple of years and has allowed students to get valuable first-hand experience in the energy field.”

For example, guided by NB Power’s Transmission Work Planning Supervisor and Powerline Technicians, high school students interested in the skilled trades embarked on a series of visits to various locations, delving into diverse career paths available on the transmission and distribution sides of the industry.

Another great partnership through the CEOs is with Horizon Health. This partnership has allowed students to get an inside look at a career in the health care field.

“We are currently working with Horizon to support engagement days across the province,” said Lockhart. “The most recent engagement days were held in Sackville and Miramichi where a site visit was provided for students who wanted to meet professionals and paraprofessionals, and experience multiple different professions in a hospital.”

Lockhart said the COE model has provided opportunities to scale the impact that partners can provide. “It really shifts the traditional mindset of ‘I work in town A, so I can only work with students in town A’, to ‘I work in Town A and utlizing the COE model I now have the ability to reach and support all students across the province’.”

If employers are unable to bring students directly to the workplace, there are numerous virtual opportunities to engage with and support students, such as serving as guest speakers at COE events.

Lockhart encourages employers in the COE fields to reach out to the Centres of Excellence if they are interested in engaging with students by visiting www.centresofexcellencenb.ca. “Partners provide invaluable experiential and virtual learning experiences via the Centres of Excellence and we will continue to grow and nurture these valuable partnerships.”