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Student Work Experience Program Opportunities for Homeschoolers

In the spring of 1999, I received a notice that the company that I worked for was starting a work experience program for high school students, intended to help students learn how to cope with work-related situations, to have an opportunity to develop current skills or interests, and to be able to evaluate possible career options before entering post-secondary education. The students are not paid a salary, but do get an opportunity not otherwise available to most students.

When I saw this, it seemed to me that this would be an ideal match for homeschooled students. Homeschooled students have flexible schedules, are taught to think more independently and have greater opportunity to be focused on education related to their future career goals. This appeared to be a perfect win-win opportunity for the student as well as the employer. From a personal perspective, I wanted this same opportunity to be available to my children to help give them a headstart to be prepared compete in the job market.

I inquired as to how homeschooled students could get involved and was advised that it was only available to full-time students of public or secondary schools due to Workers Compensation Board (WCB rules. The concern was that if a child got injured at work, the company might be legally exposed if the WCB would not cover the injury. This is because under the government policy, the WCB covers the students as though they were employees of the school board, not the employer. The policy also states that the students must be in full time attendance at a school, which is understood to mean attending school in a physical school building.

Over the next few months, I continued to pursue various possible options, with no success, so I finally decided to approach the WCB directly. Though they were helpful and pleasant, they were not able to give me any more hope than the company's student coordinator. I knew nothing at the time about WCB rules, or government policy in this area, but I was learning.

After several weeks, I received a response. Since the WCB is an arms length operation, the minister cannot alter their interpretation, However, he did advise me that if a company that was already required by law to provide WCB coverage would agree to take on a student on a work experience program, they would automatically be covered whether the student was paid or not. This finally opened the opportunity that we need. I advised my company accordingly, and they verified with the WCB that this was true. As a result, for the first time, the spring work experience term is now open to homeschoolers.

The same approach could be used to open up opportunities at other companies across the province. The only stipulation is that the company must be one that is required to have WCB insurance in place. The keys to getting this accepted are:

The specifics for the opportunities where I work are:

My recommendations for those who live in other jurisdictions and who may be subject to different regulations are as follows:

Always keep in mind that the person that you need to speak to is either the decision maker or someone who is able to effectively take your case to the decision maker. If you are simply speaking to someone who acts as a go-between, you are unlikely to ever be able to effect any change in the policy of the company. The old adage that you get more flies with honey than with vinegar works here. Taking a confrontational approach will likely make it difficult or impossible to achieve your objective.

Always remember that the company will do something if it makes business sense. Homeschooled students have a lot to offer present those advantages to the company rather than trying to force a decision. They are not required to accept students but they will respond if a good business case is put forward.

Examples of benefits that homeschooled students offer are:

1) Flexible working hours

2) Typically self-motivated

3) Independent thinkers

4) Freqiuerntly have unique training or skills

Obviously the approach may have to vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction to fit the local situation and to address local regulations. This document is simply to show how it was done in one jurisdiction to try to inspire some thoughts as to how it may be applied elsewhere.

Please feel free to let me know of local successes elsewhere.

Tom Smith,


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