, Newburyport, MA


January 31, 2012

Whittier Tech students get on-the-job training at school

HAVERHILL — The more than 100 students at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School who have outside co-op jobs enjoy real-world job experience, a paycheck and only have to come to school every other week for their academic classes. It's a taste of the freedom and independence that is around the corner for them.

But for six seniors who have secured jobs as library aides, technology assistants and cafeteria workers inside Whittier, they have found an ideal situation with co-op placements right at school.

"I was probably more nervous at first," said Shayla Rodgers of Salisbury, who is majoring in telecommunications and works for Whittier's Director of Technology Kevin Williams. "About 10 kids interviewed for the job, and I wasn't sure I could do it. But, Mr. Williams has been pretty cool about helping me out when I need it. It's not as hard as I thought."

For John Dushame and Justin Palmer, who are both majoring in culinary arts and work in the school cafeteria during their co-op week, one of the biggest challenges is dealing professionally with their friends when they come through the food line.

"They ask for extras of mac and cheese and tater tots," Palmer said. "We can't do it."

Students from all of the school's 20 majors have been placed in outside co-op jobs so far this year, and more will go out, said vocational technical coordinator Beverly DeSalvo.

"Co-op is in full swing," she said. "All students are assigned to a co-op liaison to work with, in addition to their vocational technical teacher."

Students who are interested in the co-op program should ask their shop teacher to make an appointment for them with their co-op liaison to discuss eligibility, career interests, and to begin the initial paperwork, she said.

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