“I’m learning about the business, working with all sorts of tools, getting some work experience and earning credits.”

Summertime – for most high school students, it’s time for a break from the books, for trips to the beach or hanging out with friends. But for some, summer means unique opportunities to get hands-on training as they test drive a possible career.

The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) Summer Co-op Program gives students a four week placement at a local business or organization. Besides the hands-on, practical experience of spending time at a workplace, students earn credits towards their diploma.

Josh Savory is entering his last year at Huron Heights Secondary School (HHSS). This past summer, he worked with Kent McNaughton of Benchmark Renovations restoring a house in downtown Kitchener.

“I’ve been doing all sorts of things,” said Josh. “Everything from flooring, painting, drywall, and hanging cabinets.”

The program is a great fit for Josh, who was happy to trade his summer for the skills and knowledge he gained.

“I’m learning about the business, working with all sorts of tools, getting some work experience and earning credits,” said Josh.

Co-op placements are also available through the school year, but the summer co-op fits better into his schedule.

“It also gets me out of bed in the morning,” he said with a smile.

For McNaughton, having a summer co-op is more like being a trades promoter than employer.

“I’ve been involved in the renovation business for years, and I find it such a rewarding career. I’d love to bring others into it,” he said. “But there is such a labour shortage right now. We’re crying for skilled workers. For me, the best outcome of these placements is if I can get someone interested in the trades.”

Josh is enrolled in the construction sector of the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), a pre-trade program that gives students the knowledge and experience necessary to start their career in one of the many skilled trades.

“The Board has been so helpful in working with employers to get co-op placements set up,” said McNaughton. “They provided Josh with the steel-toed safety boots needed for the job site and are helping him apply for two different $1,000 bursaries offered to co-op students who are OYAP participants.”

One of the goals of experiential learning opportunities like those offered through the WRDSB’s Summer Co-op is to give students exposure to career options.

“We’re asking 16 to 17-year-old students to make decisions about their future without them even knowing what’s out there,” said McNaughton. “We [co-op employers] can have such an impact on young people outside the classroom – we can help give them a purpose, a direction.”

Co-operative Education in the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB)

Co-operative Education placements give students a hands-on way to explore careers in fields as diverse as child care, law, computer programming and the trades. Students, parents and caregivers can learn about these opportunities by speaking with the Guidance Counsellor at your high school.

Pathways to Success

Visit the Pathways to Success website for information on:


If you’re someone who wants to help a student explore a career in your field, contact:
Kim Keena, Experiential and Co-operative Education Lead
Waterloo Region District School Board
519-570-0003 (extension 4443)