Employer Insights: Working with Students with Lesley Warren Design Group and Little Mushroom Catering!

We caught up with our friends Lesley Warren Design Group and Little Mushroom Catering to talk about their experiences with experiential learning and working with post-secondary students.

Little Mushroom Catering is a local business founded in Kitchener in 2010 and they are a full service catering company mainly catering weddings, milestones and business/corporate events. Little Mushroom Catering has worked with students from several post-secondary schools in the area. They hire 1 – 2 students into co-op roles per term and as a result, co-op has become an essential part of their business over their 8 years of business. The nature of work that the co-op students are typically responsible for is in one of two categories: culinary and service. Culinary co-op students complete tasks like prep, food portioning, cleaning, sanitizing and other entry level culinary tasks. The main objective is to teach the students the ropes of working in a kitchen and the essential skills needed in this line of work like time management, cleanliness, professionalism and safety. Service co-op students work alongside the Wedding and Events Coordinator as an assistant to provide support. The main objective is to take on more and more tasks and eventually be able to complete all tasks on their own. In this role, the service co-op student is able to develop the skills associated with working independently which includes problem solving, the ability to prioritize and multi-task efficiently.

Lesley Warren Design Group is a boutique marketing and design firm focused on branding and design execution. This marketing and design firm has been in business for 11 years and employs 7 full-time employees and a handful of part-time employees in addition to their student program. They have worked with 4 – 5 graphic design students over the last six years, providing 3 – 4 week internship opportunities to students from schools including Conestoga College. The nature of work covers a variety of different design projects for each student. On their internships, students have the opportunity to work directly with a Senior Designer on their current projects. As part of the opportunity, the student is given the same creative input opportunities as anyone on the team and encouraged to do as much hands on work as possible. In addition, students are responsible for doing some revision work as well as providing support to the design team. The main objective is to experience what a real life studio environment is like as closely as possible, as well as develop skills that are required to work in that environment.

Little Mushroom Catering and Lesley Warren Design Group both value giving back and getting involved in the community. They both agree that it is important to give back to the labour market that they draw from. “It is our responsibility to replenish the labour market we take from with individuals with valuable skills” said Alex Jolink from Little Mushroom. Lesley Warren agrees saying “with 20 years of experience under my belt, it is my responsibility to mentor and give back to the upcoming generation.”

Working with students is not only a learning opportunity for the students but also for you as the employer. While students come ready to learn, they also bring a fresh perspective, up to date knowledge, technologies and techniques to your workplace. Engaging with students also provides a networking opportunity for you; once a student has worked with you they could be an advocate and connection for your business, as well as a possible future employee. In fact, both Lesley Warren Design Group and Little Mushroom Catering have hired students who have worked with them in full time roles.

Interested in learning more? Contact us and learn how you can work with students to build your talent pipeline.