student beside Sleeping Giant landscape

Co-op student lives the dream with Ontario Parks

In today’s post, Daniel Miller shares his experience as a co-op student with Ontario Parks’ Northwest Zone Office.

Ever since I first started visiting Ontario Parks, I’ve been interested in the people who help them operate.

The workers: behind the desks, driving the white park trucks, educating visitors about the various plants and animals — all doing their part to give the campers a memorable visit.

To me, it seemed like a very appealing atmosphere, and it was not too long before I would spend my summer and eventually, a high school semester working in that environment.

My first job was none-other than as a park ranger at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, where I had previously spent countless hours as both a camper and day visitor. I had the pleasure of spending the summer working as a gatehouse attendant, providing me with first-hand experience of park operations and allowing me to learn about the many careers available with Ontario Parks.

The perks

In my summer position, I gained important skills, and discovered all the fun activities available at the park. Some pleasant ways to spend my time at the park included hiking or biking to the top of the Giant, swimming in various lakes and bays (some being much colder than others — especially Lake Superior), and best of all, enjoying the amazing scenery.

Whether it was gaining valuable work experience or making new friends with my coworkers, it was always easy to find ways to make my summer worthwhile.

By the end of my second summer working at Sleeping Giant, I had become exceedingly interested in continuing this career once the season came to an end. So when I heard about an opportunity to carry this passion forward during the school year, I was more than eager to do so.

Lookout Poin

A co-op at Ontario Parks

A co-op placement, in which I would be working for two periods out of the day, is a great option for high school students like myself. Once I realized co-op was a possibility, I immediately looked for a placement with Ontario Parks.

Once my position was confirmed, I found myself suddenly looking forward to the upcoming school year. I got to spend the last semester of my senior year working for Ontario Parks!

My co-op took place in the Northwest Zone Office located in Thunder Bay, just a short drive away from school. After spending the first portion of the day in class, I made my way to the office.

My work largely consisted of administrative duties, such as handling mail and finding different ways to help keep the office organized, while also being available to help out with several other areas of the office.

Above all, my co-op placement acts as a learning experience for me. I’ve found a notable opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at park operations while interacting with people I was unlikely to meet as a ranger while at Sleeping Giant.

Kabeyun trail at Sleeping Giant

Collaborating with the ecologists, GIS technicians, and natural heritage education leaders has given me a deeper understanding of the available careers found at Ontario Parks. I’ve even been asked to write this blog post for the OP website!

Some highlights

In addition to gaining office experience, I had the opportunity to visit our provincial parks in the area, including a staff excursion to Sleeping Giant as part of a health and wellness day.

I was also recently supporting an overnight trip to Wabakimi Provincial Park, assisting the park biologist. We spent the day canoeing and hiking through the park to install song metres, a device that records the acoustics of various birds in the area.

A crucial career step

As a student, a summer position at the park is an excellent introduction to Ontario Parks. For me, a co-op placement has been the next step to a possible career with Ontario Parks in the future. Both options offer great exposure to park operations, both in an office workplace and outdoor fieldwork.

Whether you’re looking for a summer job or an alternative way to earn high school credits, working with Ontario Parks is a terrific experience that I would recommend to anyone.

We were delighted to welcome Daniel back to Sleeping Giant as a gate attendant this summer! Are you interested in joining the Ontario Parks team? Applications for the 2023 Summer Season are now open!