Ontario’s universities offer innovative work-integrated learning programs and placements that combine traditional classroom teaching methods with hands-on, collaborative activities that help students learn in new ways. These opportunities help students develop the valuable, adaptable skills that many employers are seeking and help ensure they are well-positioned contribute to the workforce of the future.
Here are some examples of how Ontario’s universities are building robust hands-on learning opportunities, while transforming their career services to help prepare students for employment:
- Algoma University has just launched an Experiential Learning Hub, providing programming and employment opportunities for students to build upon the skills they will need for the workforce.
- The University of Guelph’s Centre for Business and Student Enterprise has enabled hundreds of students to work with more than 150 businesses through its Management Consulting class, tackling real-life business challenges.
- The University of Waterloo’s pioneering co-op program is the largest of its kind in the world, with more than 20,000 students enrolled in a co-op placement at any given time.
Experiential learning is often driven by large-scale initiatives showcasing institutions’ partnerships with local economies:
- Carleton University students apply their computer-science skills in a creative and real-life work environment as part of a partnership with Ottawa e-commerce company Shopify.
- The Teaching City in Oshawa is a partnership between the municipality and Ontario Tech University (University of Ontario Institute of Technology), Durham College and other institutions, enabling students to work with city staff to solve urban challenges such as waste management and age-friendly public transportation.
- Ryerson University’s 10 learning zones enable immersive experiences in fields from biomedicine to fashion, and clean energy to digital technology, to take place alongside the incubation of commercial ideas.
- Wilfrid Laurier University’s CityStudio is an innovation hub where students work in partnership with city staff in Waterloo and Brantford on solutions to local issues.
At the grass-roots level, hands-on learning projects provide opportunities for students to engage with the community and help local people:
- Brock University accounting students give free tax advice to members of the local community who couldn’t otherwise afford it
- Aboriginal students at Nipissing University gain work experience at not-for profit agencies helping those in need – one of the many Indigenous community initiatives at Ontario universities.
Hands-on learning opportunities aim to help students combine their academic knowledge with the soft skills, such as leadership, critical thinking and communication, that are in demand by employers:
- Lakehead University partners with RBC on its RBC Work-Integrated Learning Program, which combines classroom learning with practical workplace application, and which “is aimed at bridging the gap between the classroom and the work world.”
- Laurentian University includes a 400-hour internship as part of its Outdoor Adventure Leadership program to develop leadership skills that can be deployed in business and other careers after graduation.
While experiential learning’s base has traditionally been in the STEM and professional fields, universities are rapidly expanding their reach to more students in the humanities and social sciences:
- OCADU’s Digital Futures immersive learning program allows students to immerse themselves in cutting-edge digital technology such as data visualization and wearable technology, in partnership with leading tech employers such as IBM Microsoft and Apple.
- The University of Ottawa’s Ventures Program is extending the traditional idea of entrepreneurship from business and technology into the humanities, social sciences and fine arts.
- York University recently revamped its Doing Culture course and now combines classroom research with a semester working at an arts and culture organization.
Hands-on learning goes hand-in-hand with entrepreneurial activities at Ontario’s campus incubators and accelerators:
- The Forge is McMaster University’s incubator, which supports student entrepreneurship and dedicates programming to fast-track the growth of high-potential new ventures that contribute to the local economy. More than 60 companies have been incubated since 2015 and more than 1,400 students supported.
- Western University’s Propel Entrepreneurship provides co-working space, seed funding, workshops and student mentorship, helping students take their ideas and inventions to market.
- The University of Windsor’s EPICentre manages three dedicated innovation spaces on two campuses, providing hands-on training, mentorship and advice for student start-ups.
University career centres are transforming their services to ensure Ontario’s graduates are ready to join the workforce:
- Queen’s University is making an impact with its Major Maps initiative – infographic guides for each of its undergraduate programs that map out the pathways that will take students from their chosen courses to the professions they have in mind.
- The University of Toronto’s Co-Curricular Record is an online resource that links students to experiential opportunities and creates an official document of their activities.
- One-stop-shop online hubs for career information and co-curricular opportunities, such as Trent University’s Careerspace portal, benefit students and employers.
For many more examples of how Ontario’s universities are working to prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow, visit www.ontariosuniversities.ca: