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MONTREAL,  MAY 12, 2010   Truth be told, many of today’s adults left scholastic life for the real world totally unprepared and, worse, not knowing what career best suited them. Thanks to a new English Montreal School Board initiative, today’s teens actually have a chance to avoid that pratfall.

As a follow up to the highly successful Secondary V Career Fair held every October, the Adult Education and Vocational Services (AEVS) and Student Services departments of the EMSB have introduced a complementary program this spring that, based on initial reaction, appears to be a winner with high school teens.  The first edition was held on April 12, with day two slated for Friday, May 7 (9 a.m. to 2:10 p.m.), at St. Pius X Adult Centre (9955 Papineau)  in Ahuntsic.  Once again, students will take part in a broad spectrum of workshops designed to expose them to as wide a variety of careers as possible before they make their decisions on what trades they wish to ply in the not-too-distant future.
Segmented into 35-minute sessions, the day is quite a revelation for anyone auditing the various sessions.

Here is a look at some of the sessions which will be repeated on Friday.

Automobile Mechanics, for instance, is not something many but the most diehard of autophiles would consider a career. Talk to teachers Frank Ditirro and Dino Buontempo, however, and you learn that companies hiring today will give preference to students who have completed such a course. In other words, there is plenty of work available. “They (clients) are looking for people with knowledge about automobiles, because they have become such sophisticated machines in recent years,” Ditirro pointed out. “And our classes are full, three during the day and three at night, with more young women choosing this career than ever before. We have about six to seven women graduating annually now and our female graduates are employed at John Scotty Land Rover, Toyota and Lexus Gabriel. For men, of course, it has always been a major area of career interest.”
Another area students may take for granted is the beauty field, but listen to Antonella Anania, the head teacher of the Hairdressing course, and learn how today, more than ever, clients want to entrust their fashionable appearances to people who really respect their craft. “”Pink hair is really in,” she said, “But you have to know how to colour properly (something every girl done in by a bad colourist knows all too well). We teach that and a whole lot more.” Future hairdressers even learn some biology, to understand the inner workings of the human body and how everything done to it can cause a reaction.” Over in Aesthetics next door, Toni Iannizzi talked about her two filled day classes, populated by mature students as well as teens. “There are so many opportunities for aestheticians today, aside from the more traditional hair salon locations. Cruise lines are big employers and there are employers looking all over the world, if you are willing to move. These skills can be used anywhere.” She also stressed that more men are entering the field than was the case previously. 

If hands-on beauty refinements aren’t your thing, how about a more technical approach to design, of people, objects, buildings, commercial graphics... anything? Tony Leone and Frederic   Marcil spoke about Digital Layout and Printing, and Computer Graphics, respectively. While students listened at rapt attention, computers generating more interest and work opportunities than just about any other field today, it was easy to understand why there is so much to learn and, later, to benefit from, on the job market. “Whatever you need to know on computer, we will teach you and then you will learn how to print on any and all media, including mugs, t-shirts, caps....,” Leone told students. He pulled out a silk screen and discussed its merits, which led to the heat transfer machine in the background. “You can transfer an image to a t-shirt in just 14 seconds,” said. Hmmmm, 14 seconds per –t-shirt makes how many per day? You do the math. For an enterprising young individual, there’s a business, for sure! Various tools such as PhotoShop are also taught by Marcil on computer, making this course valuable for budding photographers as well.

One presentation that really surprised and impressed dealt with Professional Sales. Long considered the domain of aging hacks who conned people into signing questionable contracts and acted in ways that conjured images from movies like Glengarry Glen Ross, the field has since matured a lot, it seems... with an injection of young blood. “This course teaches you confidence and self-discipline,” stated one of the students praising its merits from the front of the classroom. “You learn every time you do anything here and most of all you learn how to sell your most important asset: yourself.  Here, they don’t treat you like you are at school; they treat you like you are at a job. Everything you learn here, you can use in the real world and whatever you learn, the skills you acquire, can be used at your own business, whatever it is.” One example was a music project that several of the students are mounting together, which will result in their getting a new song conceived, produced, on air, and everything in between.  Heady, exciting stuff.
If a career in sales isn’t your thing, how about summoning your inner artisan and learning Cabinet-Making and Furniture Finishing? Veteran wood-masons Kerry Bullis and Eliane Kinsley had students riveted on their specimens, showing them how you can take this natural substance and turn it into a functional and eco-friendly objet d’art. Bullis works in the film field as a carpenter on film shoots, a business he got into when he was in university at age 24. “I was in a cultural studies program and I switched by economic necessity,” he said. “I had already been studying film, so I was offered a summer job and it became more permanent.” Bullis and Kinsley told students that carpenters make more money than cabinet-makers traditionally, but that the latter are more independent, autonomous workers. “You can set your own rates eventually,” Bullis added. Meaning, if you are great at what you do, wealthy clients might desire your work - the sky can therefore really be the limit if you study hard and take your career seriously. “We have students who leave the program and immediately open their own shop,” Kinsley stated.
Other courses worth considering for the technically or scientifically-inclined are Machining Techniques and Automated Systems Electro-Mechanics. The former utilizes CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software to wind up with a beautifully-machined end product that can be mass-marketed. Students learn to input all their relevant information into the computer  - such as tool size and speed - to get their chosen machine to do whatever is required. These technicians are often well-paid, but they can also choose to go to university later on and learn how to become professional designers. The latter course teaches you what happens when you wish to create an automated electrical product and how to design it, wire it up, set the internal timers and such. One example shown students was the creation of a simple digital clock with an LED display, which we all take for granted but which isn’t all that simple, after all, unless you know what you are doing: Miss one small circuit and your alarm may not go off for that all-important job interview. Or that Wii competition.

There were several other workshops for careers that many of us assume don’t require training... a wrong assumption, one quickly learns. Take the Travel and Hotel Reception field, for instance. When a massive airplane lands and 800 travellers disembark, tired, hungry and headed directly to their hotel for badly-needed rest and relief, do you think you need to be ready at the receiving end? “You sit on the plane for just a few hours, but the hotel is your home away from home, for days or weeks,” stressed an instructor.  “When we teach students, we emphasize how a hotel operates, so you understand and appreciate your role in that home away from home.” Subjects covered include customer psychology – how DO you deal with a guest who wakes up on the wrong side of the bed (an old saying implying moodiness)? – how to handle requests for directions, some of which you might be unfamiliar with, and that essential part of the job that is truly a challenge to do properly: how to answer the phone professionally and how never to forget to offer service with a smile. Those of us who travel frequently can tell you horror stories about hotel stays gone terribly awry.
Classes in Paralegal Technology and Medical Records are offered by O’Sullivan College and Amanda Ientile was on hand to discuss these fields with students. Handling medical records properly can actually make the difference between life and death in hospitals, where misinformation is often a major issue. “Many students also take our paralegal courses (which enable you to find work as legal secretaries in law firms) before going to university and obtaining their law degrees,” said Ientile.    

One of the most popular workshops was the one exploring a Career in Television or Radio. CBC Television News co-anchor Jennifer Hall, the Global Television team of reporter Domenic Fazioli, video journalist David Sedell, promotions coordinator Travis Todd and Sunny Morrison from human resources and Virgin Radio/CJAD traffic reporter, deejay and podcaster Kelly Alexander was  an instant hit with the students who came to experience their humour and honesty about her industry.

Hall described her job as “a real adrenalin rush,” and stressed the importance of being able to work on deadline. She only arrived in Montreal last fall via Ottawa and London (Ontario) to co-anchor the new 90 minute newscast.  Global’s Faziolo, a graduate of the EMSB’s General Vanier Elementary School and Laurier Macdonald High School. spoke about what it is like to work the crime beat. “I started out in 1995 getting coffee for the anchorman,” Fazioli admitted.

Alexander was honest with the students about her job.  “I won’t lie to you. Your salary isn’t great to start with,” she said. “But it goes up in time and there are announcers in this city driving around in some pretty snazzy cars.”

Working in the business, she added, is about your voice, your personality and whether you are “about” what listeners are attracted to at any given period. Or whether you “fit” the sound of the station, a factor that often changes. “I work six days a week, but I love it and I love talking to you guys,” she said. “I recently had a chance to give away Lady Gaga tickets and had the best three hours on air that I have had in a long time. I also met Lady GaGa and she’s really sweet.”  

Speaking of sweet sounds, Music was also covered, with veteran Vanier music teacher Jerry Lecker admitting that the program is not a cinch to pass. “Lots of students, 30 percent, leave the program because they don’t realize how much work is involved,” Lecker said. “I sat in on the bass auditions this year and the spectrum ranged from one end to the other.” The best part of the program is that if you work hard, have musical aptitude and commitment, you will learn and succeed. “Take jazz, for instance. You may worry that you know nothing about jazz, but you are allowed to audition with rock, pop, or whatever. Jazz shares the same basic principles, only classical is very different. But classical music hasn’t changed an iota since Mozart died. If you can handle jazz, however, you have the chops to handle anything.”  There is not a lot of schooling in electronic music available at the CEGEP level, Lecker said, but Vanier does offer classes in studio technologies. He also stressed that many girls also go into music today, compared to before. In this program, you learn to play a primary instrument and also a secondary one, with one hour per week of lessons on the primary and one half-hour on the secondary. All students must perform in one large ensemble group and one small group. 

One of the more unusual and specialized workshops dealt with Environmental & Wildlife Management and Animal Health Technology, a combined segment led by wildlife Quention Van Ginhoven and veterinarian Stephane Faubert.  Van Ginhoven talked about aspects of wildlife management, a very unique field where technicians are used by zoos, as sales reps (at pharmaceutical companies manufacturing medicines for animals and feed manufacturing firms), pet insurers and at lab testing facilities.  Students will spend significant periods of time at the wildlife field station in Lachute, especially during warmer periods when the animals are most active. “You can’t be afraid of the woods, day and night, in this field,” he cautioned. Part of the course also deals with the tagging of animals in order to facilitate the tracking of a particular species.  Faubert said that while a love of animals is a must, and experience with domestic animals at home a plus, this is not only a course in small animals.  “Your role is to assist your veterinarian at all times, to improve animal health, to serve and protect the public,” Faubert stated. Animal technicians are needed at hospitals, private clinics, research facilities and industries such as the breeding arena. “You should know about science and have an understanding of animal psychology, as well.” This is also a good avenue to get to university and become a veterinarian, Faubert concluded.         

The workshop on Chef Talk certainly made mouths water. St. Pius X’s renowned Culinary Institute is located here and its chef students were hard at work making crepes for students and preparing the bag lunches, featuring healthy-yet-sumptuous wraps, for attendees who were asked to sport hair-nets, according to health laws, while touring the facilities with their guide, industry veteran and instructor Chef Mario. The Culinary Institute offers their students, which also includes more life-savvy individuals, an opportunity to be employed as professional chefs, a course of study that takes a year during the day and 14 months for those electing the evening program. Sampling the gourmet labours of love created by students is as simple as making a reservation at the actual restaurant on the premises, where you can savour dinner and lunch, the latter costing just $10 for a three-course meal.  If you have a passion for cooking, this class will add many new ingredients, scholastic and otherwise, to your lives. 

Harold Penn was on hand to discuss the one thing with students that links them all, at times like these: How Come Everyone Knows What They Want to Be, But Me? It’s a common issue which we all experience at one time or another, some of us much later in life. By attending these important workshops, it’s something that may no longer trouble you beyond secondary school. Enjoy what you do, receive proper training, give it 100 percent effort and your success is almost certainly assured.

Martina Schiavone and Chris Christodoulou of the  Shadd Business Centre  
concluded with some important points regarding the business field, that should convince likeminded students that business courses are the most prudent option. “Because of retirements over the next five years, 445,900 jobs will open up, with mostly young people hired to replace those positions,” noted (Martina). She also stressed that a history of volunteering was an essential component to include on any CV. “That’s what employers look for when they determine which candidates to hire,” she said.

Volunteered time is therefore never wasted time, even if the remuneration appears later and often in unexpected ways.

(Chris) added that Shadd’s business courses “give you the tools to be financially successful and the foundation to be competitive in the business world, which is the key to success.  

The workshops were made possible through the generous commitment of a variety of sponsors and organizations, with   Saint-Laurent based Bentley Leathers Inc. the lead corporate sponsor. Bentley’s Joel Barbarush spoke about Bentley’s role as a supporter of education in Montreal. “We have initiated a new program where you buy our products through your school and up to 25 percent of your purchase goes back to the school for educational purposes,” he said.  “We are very excited about this novel approach to fundraising.”

Bentley’s products, which include knapsacks and various other bags and products students use, are guaranteed for a year if the product is damaged due to a manufacturer’s defect, not due to wear and tear. The company will also be manufacturing yellow Support Our Students ribbon pins, which will sell for $2 but will benefit the schools at $1 apiece. “I am looking forward to this going viral,” Barbarush said enthusiastically. He and associate Patrick Meyers are the creators of the Bentley School Program.  Founded in the Maritimes in 1987, Bentley now has over 400 stores across Canada.


Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213