I am incredibly proud of what we offer at the CRTC, but I also know we can do better. An area of great frustration for us is the school’s ability to offer students quality internships and job shadows which we categorize as customer driven experiences (CDE’s). We offer many of these type opportunities presently, but in almost every case they are a significant logistical challenge. It is a complicated dance to bus students out of the building so they can engage in a 60 minute workplace experience (90 minute period less travel time) when many of those same students just rode a bus to get to the CRTC in the first place. Regardless, these experiences do wonders for our students and in many cases expand their horizons like no other learning experience they’ve ever had the opportunity to participate in.
Starting last year, we focused energies (and grant funds) on providing new, in-house CDE opportunities. To do so we hired, or converted previous positions, to a new job title called WESS (workplace employment skills specialist). WESS staff members are highly skilled industry experts who have been hired to oversee particular in-house businesses operated by students.
This year we hired April Hall to be our restaurant manager. Chef Hall has been in the culinary and restaurant business for years; in addition, she is an adjunct professor at Lakes Region Community College. April is working hand-in-hand with our students to build up the Crimson Corner Restaurant and related catering business. The goal is to offer students the opportunity to engage in more authentic industry experiences. Likewise, we continue to employ Mr. Phillip Bill as our auto shop manager. His focus is to bring in and support “live” cars, and to coordinate students to work on these actual vehicles. We have other examples in place, or soon to be in place, with Teacher Preparation, Health Science (LNA clinicals) and Graphics Arts (around silkscreening and printing).
Our culinary students are beginning to benefit from new WESS supported experiences. Starting in November, we will be opening our restaurant for lunch every Thursday and Friday. We also have a number of other opportunities available. When a customer calls in with a catering need, we are working to discipline ourselves to pause the conversation and have a student follow with the customer to assess and record their needs. This approach is all new for us and we continue to refine it.
Our auto students only have an hour and a half with us on a regular day. An example is when a customer brings in a car - presently Mr. Bill receives the car and takes notes. We aspire, through WESS, to have students meet the customer at drop off to record the concerns and prepare the car for service. If that is not possible, then it is to have the driver record a short video describing his/her issue as well as its’ symptoms. After watching the video, the student will create a plan of attack to resolve the issue. Upon completion, the student will record a video to report back to the customer.
In both Culinary Arts and Auto Tech, our two biggest WESS sites, we continue to work to develop a wealth of opportunities based on how far individual students want to go. Ideally, as the WESS model matures, we develop more student run businesses supported by experts we hire. We urge all students to get involved as well as propose new approaches.