Students find variety in work term experiences


(January 21, 1999, Gazette)

By James O'Brien and Gina Pecore

Business students Corey Locke and Kimberley Noseworthy spent their time this past fall applying their marketing skills to, well . . . let's just say . . . the basics of life. Things like fish waste, softwood bark, cow farms and vegetable plots.

Mr. Locke and Ms. Noseworthy are just two of many Memorial students who are back in class this term after completing eye-opening fall work term placements. The work terms are a required part of their program curriculum; it not only gives them a chance to apply their classroom learning to the "real world," it provides valuable experience to kick start their employment search after graduation.

Mr. Locke's experience last fall with Genesis Organic in Corner Brook was his second of three required work terms. Genesis produces organic compost made of fish waste and softwood bark from the paper mill in Corner Brook. For four months, Mr. Locke, a third year bachelor of commerce student from Port Rexton, conducted research that Genesis hopes will result in selling more of their compost in the Atlantic region.

"I conducted a marketing research study of the Atlantic provinces to determine sales potential. I studied five different target markets that Genesis was interested in, such as municipalities and golf courses."

Mr. Locke is optimistic his work will pay off for the 14-year-old company.

"They plan to hire a telemarketer in March. The research I did will break the ice for that person."

Spending hours on end on the phone pitching compost may not sound like the ideal job but Mr. Locke said the experience was valuable, especially to someone planning a career in marketing.

"I quickly learned (in my course work) that marketing was about sales. At Genesis, I saw a lot of what I learned in the textbooks. This was working in the real world, selling a real product."

Kimberley Noseworthy of Botwood also found herself in the "real world" last term, central Labrador real world to be specific. Ms. Noseworthy said before she went to Goose Bay to work for the Central Labrador Economic Development Board in developing the area's agricultural sector, she knew nothing about farming. Now, four months later, she's not only interested in agriculture, she's considering setting her career sights in that direction.

Ms. Noseworthy wasn't toiling in the fields last fall but she was doing her part to make sure that the people who do work on farms in central Labrador see something in return for their efforts. Like Mr. Locke, she worked as a marketing research assistant. She said she not only learned a lot about agriculture, she learned how to take on professional responsibility.

"I wasn't sure what my role was at first and what my limitations were," Ms. Noseworthy explained. "But my boss let me explore my professional development capacity. She let me have as much responsibility as I could handle. It was a fantastic experience all around."

Ms. Noseworthy said the experience was an eye-opener in many ways. During her solitary drive to Goose Bay, she was introduced to the Inuit culture in the area and was able to meet many Inuit farmers during her work term.

She hopes to return to the Central Labrador Economic Development Board for her third work term where she'll further develop her expertise in regional economic development and the agricultural sector.

Putting the work into social work

Dana Ryan-Combden of Torbay spent her field placement last semester focused on development of a different kind. As a third-year bachelor of social work student on an internship at the St. John's Health Care Corporation's Family Care Program in St. John's, Ms. Ryan-Combden helped psychiatric patients develop their ability to function in family units.

"I was involved with a long term housing program for about 45 to 50 clients. I worked side by side with the field workers and I had my own case load of about five clients."

Ms. Ryan-Combden said the work carried a lot of responsibility with it; counselling people on their daily lives was daunting at first but it wasn't long before the knowledge she gained in her classes started to make sense in the practical setting.

"I can't imagine the social work program without the field placement. You're taking people's lives into your own hands and sometimes acting as their voice. I definitely came away knowing a lot more than I went in with."

Ms. Ryan-Combden said there is a lot more to social work than meets the eye and the field placements are invaluable in helping students not only apply their textbook theory, but also to decide which career path they would find most rewarding. For her, the field placement re-affirmed her belief that she would ultimately like to work in a women's crisis shelter.

More than a game

Karen Miller liked her work term so much last semester, she decided to stick around. Understandably so. Ms. Miller, a fourth year bachelor of physical education student, is working for the 1999 Canada Winter Games Host Society in her hometown of Corner Brook. Had she finished her work term in December, she would have missed all the excitement next month as the nation focuses on the Winter Games being held in Newfoundland. By continuing her work term until March, Ms. Miller is fulfilling the requirement for two work term placements instead of one.

As sport project assistant, Ms. Miller is working with the operations team at the 1999 Canada Winter Games Park. Specifically, she is based in the sport division, the group that is, among other things, responsible for equipment and scheduling. She is helping the co-ordinator of her division procure equipment, finalize the schedules for various events, and set up the mission centre, where delegation leaders from the ten provinces and territories will operate during the Games. With less than a month to go before the games begin, Ms. Miller said she is now focused on the event 24 hours-a-day.

"I can't get to sleep until late at night because I need to wind down from the day. We've been going all out for about six months now."

According to Ms. Miller, working on a sporting event of such magnitude definitely has its learning perks.

"It prepares you for great opportunities. This work term has prepared me for so much, especially in communications, whether it's face-to-face, e-mail, whatever. Team work has also been a huge part of this."

Ms. Miller said the one thing she is not really looking forward to is winding down once the Winter Games are over. She said the staff have been trained to cope with the change in pace once the event concludes. It's a break that Ms. Miller might be wise to welcome before she heads back to school for three straight semesters in preparation for graduation in April 2000.

Digging deeper

In many ways, the arid desert sands of Oman are probably about as far way as you can get from Mount Pearl. Engineering student Jeff Wells experienced these differences firsthand as a Term VI mechanical engineering co-op student working for Deutag, a German drilling contractor.

Mr. Wells had previous experience working at Deutag's head office in Bad Bentheim, Germany. His most recent employment opportunity arose out of his desire to see the field or operational side of the industry. Deutag officials agreed, and sent him to Oman last year during his work term from September to December of last year.

In Oman, Mr. Wells worked as a drilling engineer trainee, learning the ropes of running a drilling platform from other company engineers as well as from tool pushes (team leaders on the drilling platform). In this capacity Mr. Wells visited rigs and learned the drilling business, from the drill floor up.

"I travelled to a number of the platforms, and worked with the toolpushers to devise solutions to technical problems" Mr. Wells explained. His reports were eagerly received by company officials; he said they welcomed his abilities to quickly understand problems and bridge the knowledge gap between off-site managers and workers on the platform.

Mr. Wells reported enjoying his co-op experience on both a professional and personal level. The photos he brought home with him depict drilling equipment, desert geography and his international colleagues.

Notwithstanding travelling to an exotic place like Oman, the benefits that come out of experiences like this can also be highly personal. Mr. Wells explains: I now have the confidence to see my future in terms of both local and international possibilities."

Mr. Wells' co-op experience has helped him and others to understand that there's an international market for the engineering skills developed by Memorial's Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.