#BetterTogether2017 – Reflecting and connecting around work-integrated learning

June 20, 2017 | Workforce Development

Preparing students and graduates for the world of work

Preparing Canada’s post-secondary students and graduates to enter the world of work is a team effort! When it comes to work-integrated learning programs, a key member of that team is the employer, but the empowered student is at the heart of it all.

Close to 400 participants at the #BetterTogether2017 conference May 28-May 31, shared their successes, reflections, ideas and innovations during four days in Vancouver, BC.

Better Together 2017 was a collaboration of the Association for Co-operative Education BC/Yukon (ACE), the Canadian Association of Career Educators & Employers (CACEE) and the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education (CAFCE).

Work Integrated learning happens within education programs linked through a workplace-based component that together enable a student to acquire or test-drive practical skills in conjunction with their school-based learning. This encompasses both cooperative programs and internships.

From seeking a broader, more inclusive definition of work-integrated learning to figuring out how to assess return on investment for this type of learning, it was clear that these organizations and their members are up to the challenge of evolving post-secondary landscapes and employer workplaces in the future.

CEDEC had a front-row seat, presenting its Workforce Development Strategy and highlighting partnership initiatives that take place at career fairs to connect employers and job seekers through informal “Get Connected” networking activities and the Zone Multilingue’s second-language evaluation services.

A family portrait of members of boards of directors from CACEE, ACE and CAFCE who collaborated on the Better Together 2017 conference. Photo by Mark Gibbon.
From left to right: John Ault, Manager, Student Employment and Career Centre at the University of Saskatchewan; Nancy Moulday, Director, University Relations for TD Group and former president of CACEE; Rodney Larmand, President, College Pro Painters Canada; and Christine Keleshian, Campus Recruitment with TD. Photo by Mark Gibbon.

Some of the many innovators we encountered

Better Together 2017 introduced CEDEC to a wide array of new contacts, including

software and platform developers, career centre managers and employers working on bridging gaps between training and work experience. Among the exciting work showcased, several initiatives caught CEDEC’s attention.

  • Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business career management team at its Burnaby campus has introduced a Business Career Passport into the first year of undergraduate studies.

“The Business Career Passport came together as our Career Management Centre along with some our faculty members believed that career development is an integral part of the Bachelor of Business Administration Program (BBA),” explained Lisa Higashi, Manager for Undergraduate Careers at the Centre. “Our program being very flexible and our campus being primarily commuter based, our career workshops were not seeing the attendance with workshops outside of the classroom. We wanted to move from optional workshops to mandatory career learning for all of our students.”

Having students complete this prep work over the course of their degree leads to more efficient and fruitful encounters with career professionals at the end of their studies.

Successfully introducing such an initiative into the education system takes determination and collaboration from all stakeholders. The results of this passport to facilitate students’ entry into the workforce will be worth visiting.

  • The National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) showcased its interactive Breaking it Down web portal, still in development, which will provide original content that’s easy to access for students and graduates with disabilities and employers to connect and discuss accessibility, disclosure, accommodation and employment opportunities.

Lisa Kuiper, Employer Development Manager at Brock University, and researcher and educator Chelsea Mohler, a research consultant for NEADS, facilitated a great interactive session about the portal. Participants discussed their role and the challenges they face in tackling the question of accessibility for students and coop students in workplaces. Out of that came some ideas.

Among the innovative ideas being shared through this Labour Canada initiative is for students with disabilities to incorporate their unique skills within a personal brand to help employers better understand what they need and what they bring to the table. For employers, there’s content that explains responsibilities and obligations.

  • Riipen, a startup headquartered in Vancouver, is bridging the skills gap via its “technology platform that connects the greater business community with higher education students, recent graduates and educators” with industry-driven project-based experiences.

This Canadian solution with an international client list is addressing the eternal graduate conundrum: You can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job.

To disrupt this “catch 22” the Riipen platform offers a transition space where students can apply their learning and offer innovative solutions to the real-world challenges of employers. Students gain class credit, employer recommendations, and potentially employment, while employers get access to new ideas and a wider pool of young, job-ready talent to grow their business.

Ultimately, founder Dana Stephenson, a former coop student, aims to double or triple the number of post-secondary students and graduates involved in their work-integrated learning space.

Missed the #SBSchat?

No problem! Click the link to see the discussion on twitter for #SBSchat : Digging into Diversity Engagement