Grant gets students ready for working world

Thanks to a provincial grant, a new program being implemented at Fort High this year will help some students make the transition to the job market a little easier.
Named “Bridges: School to Work Transition Grant,” the proposal to get a program up and running here was submitted to the Ministry of Education and Training last winter.
“The Lakehead Board of Education was the one who submitted it to the government, and since we’re partnered with Lakehead, we’re one of those who benefited,” noted “Bridges” co-ordinator Marnie Cumming.
While the total grant was more than $100,000, the local portion (amounting to $15,000) has allowed eight special ed. students at Fort High to be in the “school to work” program.
“What we have done since January is work with Kathy Cuthbertson and developed an in-house training program,” Cumming explained.
“With these students working in the cafeteria, which Kathy took over at the beginning of the year, they’ll learn basic preparation, health and safety standards, maintaining a safe workplace–the basics,” she noted.
“They have already taken employability training before they started working,” she added.
Cumming said the point of the program was to build up enough on-the-job know-how and self-confidence to see the students land full-time employment in the near future.
Meanwhile, Cuthbertson has been thrilled with the chance to help the “Bridges” students get work experience.
“It’s working out really well. They’re a great help, and lots of fun,” she remarked. “It gets pretty active in here sometimes.”
The grant also allowed the program to hire recent Fort High grad Jennifer Galusha to act as “job coach” for the trainees.
“My job is to watch over the kids as well as train them on a rotating basis,” explained Galusha, who has experience in the co-op field, serving a term working with the special ed. program and another cooking at the Circle D Restaurant in Emo.
“Each field I’ve worked in comes together here,” she added.
As for the students themselves, they seem to be getting along just fine.
“My job is to clean vegetables and help prepare a lot of foods,” said “Bridges” intern Dan Gagne. “It’s fun and helpful. I’m having a ball.”
Wayne Fraser said he was happy to work in the cafeteria because it gave him “more experience for the future.”
A jack-of-all-trades around the kitchen, he’s doing dishes and baking when he’s not frying chicken burgers and fries.
Although those now enrolled in the program will move on after June, the program may see extended life–and another wave of students–come next school year.
“We’re in the process of re-applying for a second grant,” Cumming noted.