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Wednesday, 12 November 2014 15:38

Spend-A-Day at Great Plains College like ‘test-driving’ school

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Blair Simpson, Chinook School Division career counsellor has a simple, yet poignant perspective on choosing a post-secondary institution.

“The analogy is it is like taking a test drive with a car. You wouldn’t buy a car without trying it out first,” hypothesizes Simpson, who administers counselling to a prospective 2,000 high-school students within the southwest corner of Saskatchewan. “So why would you do that with something that’s even more valuable than a vehicle — your education?”
If that’s the strategy, then the Great Plains College is ready to roll and on Nov. 19, administration there will prove the college is a viable option for perspective students.
The annual Spend-A-Day at the Swift Current campus is Nov. 19 where students have the chance to ask questions of staff and the instructors and check out the building. Great Plains officials also tout it as a day where they can demonstrate future employment opportunities and how some programs, such as the business certificate, can transition into higher education.
Carrie Voysey, Great Plains’ director of communications, says administration knows how important a day such as open houses and the upcoming Spend-A-Day is, to not only the Swift Current campus, but to the others which combine for 400 full-time students and 1,400 part-time students across the college. There’s another Spend-A-Day at the Great Plains College — at the Rosetown campus and for the welding program, on Nov. 26.
“We put a lot of time and effort into these days as there is a lot to co-ordinate between the programs. We do our best to make the Spend-A-Day engaging and fun, with free food, hands-on interaction and prizes,” explains Voysey. “Our goal is to ensure that all participants leave the events well informed and with the consensus that Great Plains College is a good place to be.”
Nov. 19 will feature the Administrative Assistant, Business (Explore certificate, diploma and degree options in; accounting, administration, financial services, human resources, insurance and marketing); Electrician; Power Engineering (SIAST); Practical Nursing; Registered Nursing; Social Work and Welding programs.
Simpson says his job is to advise students on not only options on what to pursue, but how to get there. He thinks a day such as this at the college is invaluable to help deciding whether a school is the right fit.
At Great Plains, the welding program has a special surprise.
“They will have you do an assignment in the welding department, so you actually get to do welding,” says Simpson. “Jared (McKenzie, lead instructor) will have a welding assignment for them to do.”
He says the Spend-A-Days are good for grades 11-12 students, while Chinook also has a Career Expo for those in grades 10-12 with 60-80 booths. They include not only professional organizations, but post-secondary institutions too.
Simpson says he is honest and tells the students about all available options. He thinks programs such as Spend-A-Day are not only a good way to attract students, it’s critical for education. Missing a day of school is never necessarily a good thing, but in this case, students are still learning and in the long run the day plays a crucial role in career planning.
“In the education world, anything we can do to help students is what we’re going to do and help them learn and explore options,” says Simpson who noted there were 23 students who did a similar program recently in Medicine Hat. “Missing a day of school which could help launch a 40-year career is going to be a big benefit.”
Voysey says it’s an important time for the college and the events are generally pretty successful.
“We also gather feedback from the high-school counsellors (who usually bring the students) and from the participants themselves on how the day went for them, what they want more of, etc.,” explains Voysey. “We really try to listen and incorporate what people have to say about their experience. And as a result, the event gets bigger and better each year.”
The Swift Current campus (121 2nd Avenue N.E.) Nov. 19 Spend-A-Day will go from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Phone 306-773-1531 for more information.

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