December 3, 2015


Bringing the classroom to employees: New program helps adult students earn their diploma

GUELPH, Ontario – An innovative new program brings the classroom to employees, allowing them to earn their Ontario secondary school diploma while still working full time.

SWAF (School within a Factory) is a partnership between the Upper Grand District School Board and Linamar Corporation. The program is flexible, allowing employees to fit class time into their work schedule.

Upper Grand teachers run the program, creating individualized educational plans for each student, and working with them one-on-one to answer questions and complete assignments. Courses have both in-class and independent self-study components. The SWAF classroom isn’t a formal lecture-like setting. Rather, it’s where students can go to get one-on-one help with their courses and have a quiet place to complete coursework.

Twenty-three students are currently enrolled, all with a variety of reasons why earning their OSSD is important to them.

For some students, earning their diploma is a way to ensure they can provide for their young children. Others have goals of working their way into leadership roles at their job. A number of students have plans to go onto college to work in the skilled trades. And for others, earning their diploma is simply on their ‘bucket list.’

On Wednesday, representatives from Upper Grand, Linamar and members of the public were at the Frank Hasenfratz Centre of Excellence in Manufacturing to hear more about the program. The Linamar facility is home to the SWAF classroom.

“When life gets busy, it can be difficult to reach your goals,” said Upper Grand teacher Jennifer Watson. Watson works full-time with the SWAF students, teaching math and guidance. Two additional teachers work part time, with Tyler Holland teaching English and literacy, and Deb Kortleve helping students earn co-op credits.

The teachers work together to create a welcoming space for the students. One of the reasons they think the program will be successful is that they are reaching out to the employees, rather than hoping the employees reach out to them. Watson compared the program to a personal trainer – it’s a lot easier to reach your fitness goals if you have someone coming to you and encouraging you.

Watson said it’s also important to build relationships with the students. “Every student that walks through that door is different and unique with a different background and life experiences,” she said. And so, everyone’s educational pathway is unique and it’s Watson’s job to figure out their puzzle and their pathway.

Participants do not have to be Linamar employees to enroll and the program doesn’t cost students a thing. But you do need to be 18 or older and be employed full-time to enroll. SWAF is a continuous intake program, meaning employees can join the program at any time.

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For more information:
Heather Loney, Communications and Community Engagement Officer
519-822-4420 ext.725
heather.loney@ugdsb.on.ca