David Russell

30 hours of student work
Home | Last Dance | Deadly Lessons | blog | Articles | Press & Comments | Novel Excerpt | Emcee & Public Speaking | Contacts & Links

Letters, Coquitlam Now
January 24, 2004

(Copyright Coquitlam Now 2004)

Re: Wednesday, Jan. 21, My View by David Russell, "Requiring 30 hours of work experience does a disservice to high school students."

Categorizing all student work experience placements as merely "free labour" does a huge disservice to employers like me and, I suspect, to many students.

I've had approximately 20 students on work experience placements in my business over the last seven years, once two at a time because teachers were so desperate to find appropriate placements for their students.

I tell them in the pre-placement interview that while their presence slows my work down because of the time taken to explain things to them, I welcome them here and try to give them as varied a work experience as I can for the time they're here. I explain that in exchange for the time I spend explaining and mentoring, I expect some value from them in return, which is to perform some tasks I then don't have to do myself or pay someone to do -- tasks for which I have to train them, which also adds to their learning and work experience. However menial these tasks might seem, they are all things I do or have done to build my business.

I've never once had a student or teacher, at the time or later, suggest I was simply taking advantage of free labour.

At no time did I infer I'd hire them if they did well, and none of them demonstrated in attitude or performance that was their expectation. I believe each one of them was proud to add the experience to their resume, and I was only too happy to supply references.

We small and large business owners have our hands full running businesses. It's not cost-effective to take on work experience students who must be oriented and trained on the job in order to perform certain tasks. It is, however, a responsibility I and many, many others gladly embrace.

So please don't assume we're all out here trying to take advantage of students. We're working hard to provide an experience that replicates in 30 or 100 hours the job or profession in which the student is interested so they can determine if it is one they wish to pursue.

And at a minimum, any student who shows up on time with enthusiasm, a positive attitude and a willingness to learn will get a glowing reference from me. With those attributes, they can succeed at whatever they want, and the fact that someone outside their family or school can attest to that can make a difference to their ability to get jobs.

Judging by the frantic phone calls I receive from teachers, we could all spend our time more productively by encouraging more businesses, self-employed entrepreneurs and freelance professionals to welcome and mentor our youth.

Linda Baker,

Port Moody