By: Marilyn Warren, Loyalist College
Loyalist College work placements serve many purposes. They are an opportunity for students to apply the skills they have been learning in a real work environment. It’s an audition – an opportunity to make a positive impression, to network. For some students, it is the perfect segue into a job. Britini Barton, a 2012 Social Service Worker (SSW) graduate, can attest to this.
“Community member Nick Foley had an idea for a not-for-profit organization and he came to the College looking for help to launch it,” said Britini. “One of my faculty members asked if I wanted to get involved as part of my work placement and I’ve never looked back. I’m now the Assistant Director – Programs Manager for Celebrate the Hero.”
Celebrate the Hero is an initiative that motivates and empowers people to make a difference through their actions. They work with schools, organizations and teams to enhance the overall development and wellbeing of each individual, personally and as a member of their community. The programs are designed for primary, junior, and secondary school children but also include adult workshops such as Bullying in the Work Place. The focus is to celebrate the good each person is capable of and acknowledge the impact that words and actions have on others.
Nick Foley, founder of Celebrate the Hero, explained how the placement model worked for him when it came to hiring full-time staff. “Britini Barton was the first employee I hired,” he said. “I knew I was making the right decision because of the work she had completed as a placement student. Since then, Britini has become a rising star in the youth self-esteem world. The growth of the company would not have been this rapid if not for her creativity and tireless work ethic. From day one she has been committed to the cause. With a small business that is quickly growing, I will continue to use the Loyalist work placement as an on-the-job interview to evaluate placement students as potential candidates.”
Britini credits her success to the Loyalist Social Service Worker faculty. “The program gave me so much and I am committed to staying connected and giving back whenever I can,” she said. “I return to speak to classes and I welcome students on work placements. It’s a great experience for them, as each day is different. I liaise with principals and teachers to coordinate school visits, work in the office, and give presentations to various audiences. The best part is when I walk into a classroom and see the smiles on the children’s faces, excited for me to be there. I do what I love and love what I do.”
The Social Service Worker diploma is offered as a two-year program or as an accelerated three-semester option for those with a related diploma or degree. Students develop essential skills in human relations, interpersonal communication, interviewing, counseling, needs assessment, and critical thinking. The curriculum incorporates theoretical and practical courses including extensive group work. In addition, students gain on-the-job experience, culminating in a three-days-per-week field placement in both years. To help open the doors to employment, second-year and accelerated SSW students host an off-campus placement fair, with employers who provided placement opportunities. More than 65 local agencies and 150 students attended.