Local students, employers gather for second CHAT session

(Right) County of Prince Edward Grants and Special Projects Coordinator Emily Cowan listens to Co-op and Careers students from PECI at the second annual CHAT symposium at Rotary Club of Picton Hall on Wednesday. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)



Students from PECI and local business leaders gathered at Rotary Club of Picton Hall on Wednesday for a little chat.

A Conversation to Help Align Teamwork (CHAT) is a PECI developed, community supported symposium to bring young people and local employers together in order to better connect and understand each other’s viewpoints.

In it’s second year, the one day event is aimed to bring employers and young workers together to speak about work place issues, concerns and employment advice on how to secure and stay employed.

PECI Co-op educator Hilary Anne Clarke said that in her experience, there is a certain disconnect by both parties in today’s workplace and sessions like this can help bridge the knowledge base gap.

“I came up with it because a lot of young employees aren’t really understood by employers and vice versa,” Clarke told the Gazette. “Sometime an employee doesn’t attend a regular shift and the employer might not understand there are family or transportation issues or school work that keep the employee at home that day.”

Meanwhile, adults that have developed successful careers were able to share experiences and offer pointers on how the students can model themselves into a valued employee that and employer would like to have on staff.

“The great thing about bringing the students and employers together is that the students aren’t speaking with their bosses so they can being up questions and scenarios they might have had in the past and get some advice from a third party that has experience,” Clarke added.

In a way to drive conversations, topic cards were place on the 16 or so tables that served as work stations for the assembled groups.

All told, over a dozen local employers including McFarland Home, Sandbanks Provincial Park, PEFAC and businesses that employ young people both in summer and part time were on hand with about 50 PEC Panthers taking part.

One of those students was senior co-op student Jaden Jolley who is working daily at a Picton law office as part of her PECI studies and also works part time at a local grocery store.

Jolley said Wednesday’s session was very beneficial for herself and her fellow students.

Prince Edward OPP Community Saftey Officer Constable Patrick Menard speaks with PECI students at the CHAT event on Wednesday. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

“It’s a great way to learn about workplaces and not just you own,” Jolley told the Gazette. “We are getting great advice about different careers and that will help us plan for the future.”

Jolley admitted that balancing school and part time job is difficult but also very rewarding.

“I’ve got deadlines for applying to school, assignments and exams and it’s difficult to balance it all but I’m happy to be able to save for school and have the money to be able to buy the things I want,” She added.

Among the supporters of the session was the County of Prince Edward and one of the business leaders speaking with students on Wednesday was Emily Cowan.

The municipality’s Community Development Department’s Grants and Special Projects coordinator maintained a strong young workforce is important to Prince Edward County and gaining direct input from CHAT from young people that have just entered or are about to enter the workforce was a vital.

“We are eager to learn what their experiences have been so far,” Cowan said. “There’s lots of jobs available in Prince Edward County right now so letting them know there’s jobs out there for them and how a young person can have a great working experience while still attending PECI is an important message to get across”

Seasonal and part time employment for students is currently in good supply in Prince Edward County but getting to know where the next generation of young workers are coming from is both why CHAT was organized for a second straight year and why Cowan was so keene on getting some first hand knowledge on Wednesday.

“Community Development wants to to know what is going on in the minds of the newest generation of workers and kins of challenges they are facing and then we can start to help remove barriers that keep them from employment they might be seeking,” she added.