Even before the “Great Recession” of 2009, the shortage of skilled labour in the technical trades was identified as a major challenge by both government and labour groups. To help with any phase of the economic cycle, and for a strong economy to prevail, there must be a steady stream of skilled workers entering the work force.
For many workers, cooperative education programs offered by high schools gave them their introduction to apprenticeship opportunities that have resulted in productive and rewarding careers. For many other students, cooperative education programs provided them with valuable life skills and different job experiences that helped them find employment that matched their interests and abilities. No matter what the scenario, cooperative education programs have clearly become one of the most effective practical methods of bringing potential employees together with potential employers – and all indications are that the demand for this will continue to grow over the coming years.
Any program that places students in a working environment will have inherent risks of injury, and part of the educational value of cooperative education programs should be to have all stakeholders – teachers, employers and students - identify, understand and manage these risks. Risk Management is not a one-time task - as programs and technology continue to grow, new fields of employment will be introduced, and with them, new risks will have to be identified and managed.
There is no question that the educational value of cooperative education programs outweighs most of the risks. However, school boards are expected to identify foreseeable risks associated with any school program, and take all reasonable steps to remove or manage those risks. If the risks are not understood, and new emerging risks are not identified and evaluated, school boards may be exposed to lawsuits, but perhaps more importantly, students may be exposed to unnecessary risk and preventable injuries.
This special edition of the Oracle newsletter is dedicated to increasing the awareness and understanding of the risks associated with cooperative education and experiential learning programs, and to promote good risk management practices in managing this very important aspect of school board curriculum.
Director of Risk Management