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Cooperative work experiences available for students

The experiences can help them get assistance for further education and jobs.

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Greg Moore, student at Jamestown High School, works in the body shop of R.M. Stoudt.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

JAMESTOWN - Evyn Dick’s day starts early, working with her sheep and goats before classes at Jamestown High School. Greg Moore can be found working in the body shop or parts department at R.M. Stoudt after school at the James Valley Career and Technology Center.

Both students are in a cooperative work experience tailored to their career interests that will also offer school credit.

“Co-ops vary a great deal but typically a cooperative work experience allows a student an opportunity to work hand in hand, often side by side with experts in the field,” said Darby Heinert, assistant director of JVCTC and assistant principal of Jamestown High School.

Ten students are currently in cooperative work experiences, he said. The experiences are open to juniors and seniors and a variety of experiences for students are available, Heinert said. Ultimately, those experiences can help students decide what careers they want to pursue and provide potential financial assistance for college or a job right out of high school. For employers who agree to be part of those cooperative learning experiences, it’s a way to potentially gain a future employee while providing learning experiences.

Academics required for a cooperative work experience

Heinert said the students must take courses beforehand that are applicable to those work experiences.

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Darby Heinert
Kathy Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

“A lot of our programming is designed to give them a good foundation and I want them to have that foundation before we send them off into a co-op (work experience),” Heinert said. “That way they’re going to be much more resourceful, they’re going to be quicker to learn new techniques and strategies. It just makes sense to give them that very baseline experience while they’re with us.”

The cooperative work experiences run for a semester, and students must put in 75 hours to earn half a credit or 150 hours for one credit. While it’s not a requirement to pay the students, most employers do, Heinert said.

Dick has sheep and goats on her farm near Courtenay and thinks she’d like to be a farmer and rancher someday. But while she is doing her work experience on her family farm under her grandfather, she still had to have relevant classes before that experience began.

“I took two years of ag class with (teacher) Matthew Mootz (at the Career and Technology Center) and I would ask him to teach us about feed programs and such and vaccinations and schedules for that, and then I took that information that I learned from him and now I’m putting it forward into my herd,” she said.

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Evyn Dick works with one of her sheep on her farm at Courtenay, N.D. Her work with her herd is her cooperative work experience.
Courtesy / Lee Dick

Dick, a junior at JHS, said at one point she was having issues with parasites in her sheep and goats as well as questions with nutrition issues. Her teacher offered recommendations that she said have helped her better run her herd.

“I think the experience has definitely taught me time management,” she said. “... The experience has also taught me organization and record keeping. And I guess you can never really learn enough about raising livestock.”

Co-op experiences vary

The James Valley Career and Technology Center is a consortium school that includes students from JHS, Pingree-Buchanan and Montpelier. Gackle is also part of the consortium and JVCTC is working on streaming live content to Gackle next year in several classes, Heinert said.

Students do not have to take a class at JVCTC to be in a co-op work experience; they need to be in classes that qualify as career and technical education, he said. Career and technical education combines academic and technical skills with the knowledge and training needed to succeed in today’s labor market.

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“Our co-ops (work experiences) are all over the place,” Heinert said. “Auto tech, construction, ag, health, family and consumer science, auto collision.”

He said the resources the students get to work with probably wouldn’t be available at the Career and Technology Center.

“An opportunity to work with a professional at JRMC (Jamestown Regional Medical Center), for example, is an experience that is priceless,” he said.

For the students, those experiences help them build a stronger network as they move forward in their career path, Heinert said. That could be a recommendation or a job. That might also mean a sponsorship from a business, Heinert said. In a sponsorship, a student makes an agreement with a business where the business agrees to help with tools or tuition in exchange for the student working for the business for a specific time after graduating. If the student later ends the agreement before planned, the student would pay the employer back a specific amount, Heinert said.

“It’s a win-win,” he said of sponsorships. “The kids get help with tuition and tools. The company gets an employee and hopefully, they get time to build a healthy working relationship that’s sustainable.”

Moore, a senior, took two years in auto collision before working at R.M. Stoudt, serving an internship there before his current cooperative work experience.

“I’m mainly in the body shop,” he said.

He does a lot of work with accessories, such as installing mud flaps and covers for vehicles and works 15 to 20 hours per week, he said.

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“I still get to see a lot of the main projects and how that works in the body shop,” he said.

Andy Kapp, service manager at R.M. Stoudt, said the dealership has offered these types of experiences for students for some time.

“Hopefully they enjoy it and see the bigger process of what’s happening in the dealership,” he said.

Kapp said depending upon what the student is interested in, they can train that student to make a career out of it or have a spot for the student after completing more education.

“Maybe they would want to come back and have a career with us,” he said.

Moore is interested in an automotive career.

“I would definitely love to be in something automotive related (in the future),” Moore said. “My plan is to open up my own fabrication shop and work on cars. I also race, too, in the summer so wanting to work on race cars and stuff like that would be pretty cool. A lot of that stuff from Stoudt’s can tie in, working with tools and working in a business setting on vehicles.”

He said his experience has been good at R.M. Stoudt.

“Overall, there’s always people that will help you there. ... As much experience as I can get is a good thing. It’s a pretty good environment to be in,” Moore said.

Moore said if doing a cooperative work experience helps a student figure out he or she doesn’t want to go into that field, the student still learns something and also saves money and time with further education in that field.

Jobs available in area

Heinert noted that the experiences can help students realize there are good jobs in the region and they don’t have to leave to find them.

“One of the reasons I like the co-ops is I’m training to build a sustainable workforce for Jamestown,” Heinert said. “I want these kids to stay here.”

He noted day care is hard for parents to find in Jamestown and students have shadowing opportunities and cooperative work experiences in that area.

“So we’re trying to build a stronger child care system for Jamestown,” he said.

He said not all students in those experiences may need to continue on with their education. Students have worked in construction and plumbing, learning a trade hands-on from employers.

“It gives the employer the possibility of having a very good employee one day especially when they’re struggling to build a workforce,” Heinert said. “And so, co-ops oftentimes lead to those success stories. Someone is able to grab a job and an employer was able to fill a job simply because of a cooperative work experience.”

Heinert would like to see more co-op work experiences for health career students.

“The more clinical experiences our students can have, or cooperative work experiences, the better off the workforce is going to be,” he said. “I think it opens the eyes of kids to see what’s really available in Jamestown and discover, that, ‘Hey, I don’t have to leave town to have a successful career.”’

Dick said she believes she will attend a two-year or a four-year college after graduating from high school.

“I think that next year I will try a different work co-op but I’m thinking that I would really like to go to college for farm and ranch management and then continue from that,” she said. “So this is just a great way to get more experience and high school credits before I go off to college.”

Heinert said he was appreciative of the time and attention the businesses give toward those cooperative work experiences.

“It is a commitment but I think ... too many businesses recognize that, ‘Hey, someone gave me a chance, someone gave me a start, it’s my turn to pay it forward. If I can help someone get into this industry, if I can help them broaden their experience base then why not.’ And I think that speaks volumes to North Dakota," Heinert said.

Kathy Steiner has been the editor of The Jamestown Sun since 1995. She graduated from Valley City State College with a bachelor's degree in English and studied mass communications at North Dakota State University, Fargo. She reports on business, government and community topics in the Jamestown area. Reach her at 701-952-8449 or ksteiner@jamestownsun.com.
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