11/03/2016 02:11 EDT | Updated 11/03/2016 02:11 EDT

Why I Sent My Son To A Tech Startup For Take Our Kids To Work Day

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Multi-ethnic teenagers in science class

Each November for 22 years, The Learning Partnership (TLP) has promoted Take Our Kids to Work Day across Canada and this is the year my child participated in the program. Parents across the country were encouraged to take this "opportunity to prepare children for the future" and that's why neither my husband nor I took him to our places of employment.

I arranged for him to spend the day with a community host - a tech start-up called Interaxon - and, as a result, he learned about a wide variety of jobs none of us knew much about instead of learning more about the inner workings of a hospital or a school setting.

Recently, Federal Finance Minister, Bill Morneau used the term "job churn" to explain the situation many students my son's age may be facing. He described a future that would include multiple career changes and short-term contract employment. And that's why I thought it would be a good idea for my son to learn from the adults at the start-up.

From a parental point of view, I think I'd feel much more comfortable if my child secured a traditional job with predictable hours, good benefits and long-term stability. Perhaps that can still happen. However, if that is not in the cards, I want to make sure he has started to consider alternate possibilities. Whatever the future holds, I saw Take Our Kids to Work Day as a chance to look beyond traditional workplaces and a chance to expose him to different career paths in a concrete way.

As an educator, I can tell him how much opportunity there is in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) but I knew the same message coming from someone a little closer to his age, starting off in an exciting career (and not his mother) would have more impact.

Learning coding might have more appeal if he talked to people who did it for a living and saw the real-life results of their work.

Sending him to a tech startup was also a chance for him to see a different work environment. He has spent plenty of time in school and hospital settings and was surprised to see a different workplace philosophy and setup. He learned about working on "a hive-like team" and so much more from a friendly, passionate and knowledgeable group.

According to TLP, one of the goals of the day for students was to "understand the importance of staying in school by seeing first-hand the skills required in today's workplace" while parents were encouraged to enrich the experience "with career discussions before, during, and after to the workplace visit."

We started discussing appropriate questions long before the visit and will have much to talk about now that he has had the experience.

So how did I arrange for this to happen? I followed the advice on the permission form my son brought home from school and contacted someone from Interaxon, a business in which my son had previously expressed interest. It turns out they were very enthusiastic to participate and willing to host him and a friend for the day. TLP had helpful information and forms on their website and this allowed us to discuss arrangements and waivers.

Maybe my son will pursue a career in medicine or education. If that is what he decides, I'll certainly support his decision in any way I can. Since he's not sure what he wants to do, his experience on Take Our Kids to Work Day will give him more to consider. And that's a good thing.

Catherine Little is a Toronto-based educator and consultant who writes about education, parenting and diversity issues. Read her thoughts on The importance of "wow" in learning.

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