On November 16, 65 Co-op educators from across BC, came together on a rainy day in Vancouver for yet another engaging day full of learning, sharing, and networking. I have been a member of the ACE PD Committee since 2009 and always look forward to our annual PD events. It fact, it often feels like a reunion with old friends and I always walk away inspired with new ideas of how to improve my practice.

The theme of the November PD explored the “Limits of our Expertise: Supporting Student Needs, Health, and Well-being”. When we were brainstorming ideas for future PD sessions, the committee kept coming back to the idea that helping students secure co-op work terms, and succeed in the workplace involves so much more than job developments and student engagement. In fact, there is an array of factors that contribute to our students’ ability to apply for jobs and meaningfully engage in the workplace once they arrive. In turn, we acknowledged there are limits to our expertise and often we struggle when faced with challenges and situations that are outside of our scope. As such, we decided to bring in outside experts in the field and engage in discussion to learn how we, as Co-op practitioners, can best support our students’ needs, health and well-being.

The day kicked off with greetings from ACE President Claudia Sperling who introduced the morning keynote speaker, Dr. Kris Magnusson. Dr. Magnusson, the Dean of the Faculty of Education at SFU and a leading expert in career development, set the stage for Co-op Educators to consider their role and their students’ roles in cultivating meaningful co-op experiences. He introduced career development theories in the context of our roles in Co-op and introduced members to the positive change cycle, morale curve, and specific strategies of how we can best coach our students to have meaningful experiences. To learn more about Dr. Magnusson’s exciting work, check out his TedX keynote on learning in the 21st century: https://youtu.be/6qTS4Q6B49E.

The rest of the day composed of 4 breakout sessions for members to choose from. In the morning, Kari Marken, Educational Designer with the Centre of Student Involvement and Careers at UBC, shared how concepts such as ‘grit’, ‘creativity’ and ‘growth mindset’ are informing how we can create the best possible conditions for student learning and academic success. Kari’s presentation was engaging, hands-on, and applicable to the work we do in Co-op. We were introduced to coaching strategies to help our student move from ‘stuck to unstuck’ and have a more positive mindset for their co-op journey. At the same time as Kari’s presentation, members were engaged in an interesting dialogue with the ACE Research Committee who shared their initial results on employer perceptions and practices regarding the hiring of students that come to BC post- secondary via international educational pathways. The study was a collaborative research project involving UVic, SFU, BCIT and TRU and provided valuable insight to help how we can better support international Co-op students and employers.  I look forward to hearing more about this study and thank the Research Committee for their hard work!

In the afternoon, members had a choice of two sessions. I had the pleasure of attending Jesse Grimaldi’s interactive workshop on Trans Awareness and Inclusion which provided us with tools to understand key concepts related to gender diversity and gender accessibility. Other topics covered included sex vs. gender, use of pronouns, and how career practitioners and career centres can foster gender inclusivity. Jesse opened my eyes to a new perspective on how I can adjust my practice and communication style to better respect the rights and identity of the students I work with; I am keen to learn more. In the main room, ACE PD Co-Chair Jennie Nilsson, facilitated a lively, round table discussion on what institutions are doing to engage parents in career development and co-op. The group discussed challenges co-op educators have noticed regarding co-op students’ parents and shared best practices on how best to engage this unique stakeholder group such as hosting parent orientation and providing online resources, student agreements and letters all targeted to parents

Finally, it wouldn’t be an ACE PD session without the addition of some fun and socializing with new and old friends! Special thanks to the ACE Membership Committee who got the group riled up in the most lively (and loudest!) game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, I’ve ever seen to start the day. As well, thanks to Nicole Yeasting, Co-Chair ACE Membership Committee, for pumping up the group in an energetic afternoon fitness break. It was a great activity to get the heart pumping for the afternoon sessions (and perhaps, to make up for the extra dessert some of us may have consumed)!

Thank you to everyone who attended the November 16 PD event and helped to make it another success! After each PD, I am reminded of the good work we do in Co-op and what a fantastic group of engaged Co-op Educators that make up our Association.

More detailed notes of each breakout session will be posted in the Resource Library on the ACE website soon!