October 3, 2013 - 2:46am

The recipient of Vancouver Island University’s first Co-op Employer of the Year award is a born and raised Nanaimo event professional and VIU alumna who loves working with students and sharing skills she has honed over 30 years in the industry.

Trish Smith, a VIU alumna who works as event organizer for Parksville’s Beach Festival and Sand Sculpting Competition, accepted her award at a special gathering at VIU Sept. 20. She was nominated by Michaela Schluessel, a Nanaimo resident and second-year student in VIU’s Tourism Studies program, and says she loves mentoring VIU students as they come prepared to work and brimming with enthusiasm for gaining hands-on work experience.

“I know what it was like starting out, and I didn’t have a co-op situation,” Smith says. “I love working with the students in this program because they already have the skills and the personality and that’s half of hiring someone, having someone who is bubbly and energetic and wants to be there and likes being in the front line.”

Smith employed Schluessel from May through August to assist in coordinating many aspects of Parksville’s popular 31-year-old Beach Festival.

Schuessel was given a wide variety of tasks and projects to work on, such as coordinating the Lunch with the Castles event for Vancouver Island seniors, and lining up artists to participate in an art show that ran during the festival.

“It was one of the best experiences of my life – and it was a lot of work. I learned so much from Trish along with all the board members and volunteers,” said Schluessel, adding the experience helped clarify for her that she is in the right industry for her skills and personality. “I learned a lot about myself. I developed a lot of skills, pushed my limits, and I always had support to help me get through it.”

Jim Ketelsen, manager of the Campus Career Centre & Co-operative Education, said the award was created to show appreciation to the businesses and organizations that provide value-added learning experiences for co-op students in VIU’s Faculty of Management.

“Our program needs great employers who understand the importance of the educational role of professionals in their field,” Ketelsen says. “Trish certainly meets and exceeds all the criteria – she helps her students learn as much as they can, challenging them every step of the way.”

Co-operative Education has been offered in the Recreation and Tourism program since 1989, and since 1991 for students in the Hospitality Management program.

Tags: In the Community

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