Four different organizations have come together to form the Southeast Education and Industry Council (SEIC) – a partnership that they believe will benefit students in the southeast region.
Details on the partnership were offered at the May 15 meeting of the South East Cornerstone Public School Division. Representatives from the Cornerstone division, the Estevan and Weyburn Chambers of Commerce, and the Southeast Regional College discussed how the partnership will create and promote smooth transitions with secondary and post-secondary education, and the working world.
“Over the past year-and-a-half, we've had some initial discussions on how we can work with and talk more with the sorts of issues that we have going on, and maybe collaborate on those, rather than looking at one another, and wondering what the other one is doing,” said Cornerstone director of education Dr. Marc Casavant.
About 15 people from the different organizations gathered in Midale about one year ago, and they discussed issues related to students transitioning into the workforce. Thanks to some good discussions, Casavant said they came up with a number of areas where they could collaborate.
The five key areas include dual high school and post-secondary credits for students; regional job and trade fairs; work experience opportunities that allow students to explore their interests and receive credit; career development classes in which entrepreneurs can promote their industries and their businesses; and plans to connect industries with students to discuss basic employment needs.
“It's been a really positive relationship that started with a coffee, and now has taken off to become the Southeast Education and Industry Council,” said Casavant.
The partnership has already yielded results in one area, Casavant said. A job fair was held at the college's Saskatchewan Energy Training Institute in Estevan last month. They hope to have job fairs in Estevan, Weyburn and Moosomin next year.
South East Cornerstone has also announced a dual credits agreement with Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Manitoba. Casavant now wants to see dual credit opportunities in Saskatchewan.
“We don't have the ability to work with a local college … to share the curriculum to be able to do dual credits,” said Casavant.
Cornerstone is working with the Ministry of Advanced Education to find out if a deal can be struck to allow for dual credits. Other school divisions are also investigating the possibility.
“We can go through the Assiniboine Community College, and get over 100 courses that our kids could take,” said Casavant. “Currently in this province, I think there's only two courses that we could access to do this.”
Estevan Chamber of Commerce executive director Michel Cyrenne noted that there will often be a close connection between what students learn in Grade 12, and what they might learn in the first year of university or at a trade school. Cyrenne believes the availability of dual credits in Saskatchewan might encourage more students to pursue post-secondary education.
“It helps them have a shorter college career, so that they can get into the workforce quicker,” said Cyrenne. “It gives them that knowledge that they have a pretty good grasp of what they're going to be getting into once they get into college.”
Cyrenne said the Estevan chamber's members and the local business community will benefit from the arrangement with Cornerstone, the college and the Weyburn chamber, because there will be a stronger connection when students move from high school to post-secondary eduction, and then to full-time employment.
“We're trying to make that process smoother, quicker, and have people coming into the workforce who are better prepared and more employable,” said Cyrenne.
Cyrenne noted that McGrath was quick to come on board in the discussions, and it allowed discussions to evolve on the priorities that education has for business, and vice-versa.
Casavant said that this new partnership wasn't born from the job shortage that exists in southeast Saskatchewan and many other parts of the province, although it will provide some benefits for employers looking to fill their employment vacancies.
Rather, he said it reflects shared mandates between the different organizations, and their willingness to explore and leverage those similarities.