A new strategic initiative launched by Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, aims to give students greater opportunities to build careers with leading employers in the Hamilton Region, while expanding the employers’ access to “job-ready” college graduates.
Mohawk and local employers have collaborated on several fronts for a number of years – recognizing that both parties benefit when graduates are well trained for the positions employers need to fill. The new initiative, called the Future Ready Premium Program, broadens and intensifies that collaboration.
“This is a hallmark initiative that elevates our capacity to create exceptional learning experiences for our students and to help employers recruit the right talent for future sustainability and competitiveness,” says Jim Vanderveken, dean, Centre for Community Partnerships and Experiential Learning at Mohawk.
Mohawk consulted employers to learn more about their emerging employment priorities and how to better match those priorities with the college’s courses and programs.
“One message was that the employers wanted to develop a shared vision that looked farther into the future, with at least a five-year planning cycle,” Mr. Vanderveken says. “We agreed it’s important to build student success, a productive workforce and community prosperity for the long term.”
The first wave of the program involves 10 large employers from different sectors in the highly diversified Hamilton Region economy, and the college plans to add new employers every year.
The Future Ready Premium Employers and the college are engaging in a number of projects to achieve their goals, including early employer involvement in college program development; customized training for employers’ current employees; expanded experiential learning placements for Mohawk students and earlier exposure to employers; and more applied-research and community collaborations.
Expanded collaboration between Mohawk College and Hamilton Health Sciences
With over 15,000 employees, Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) is one of the 10 employers in the first wave of the program. Mohawk and HHS have long co-operated, primarily to educate nurses, pharmacy technicians and numerous other clinical personnel. The health and research facility offers Mohawk students hundreds of experiential placements each year, and that number continues to grow. New approaches are creating more opportunities for Mohawk students and alumni from non-clinical programs to acquire valuable experience at HHS.
“We are a very large and complex organization, and we need many different employees with various professional classifications to support our core business of patient care,” says Kirsten Krull, vice president, Quality and Performance, and chief nursing executive at HHS. “We are able to reach more deeply into Mohawk’s non-clinical programming and offer high-quality experiential learning to an increasingly diverse group of students.”
We are bringing more students into real-world projects, which gives them great learning experiences and mentorship by our staff and helps HHS solve problems in creative and innovative ways.— Kirsten Krull, vice president, Quality and Performance, and chief nursing executive at HHS
The college and HHS are expanding placements for students studying in areas such as business, media relations, graphic design and information technology. They are also creating more opportunities for students to take on key roles in HHS projects during their placements.
“We are bringing more students into real-world projects, which gives them great learning experiences and mentorship by our staff and helps HHS solve problems in creative and innovative ways,” says Ms. Krull.
“We are also working with Mohawk to develop programming to help existing employees upgrade their skills to meet changing job requirements and, in some cases, to move to other jobs within HHS,” she adds. One example is a fast-tracked education program for HHS’s registered practical nurses seeking to become registered nurses.
One student’s experience
As he worked towards a post-graduate diploma in business analysis fundamentals, Mohawk student Heston Tobias had a six-week placement at HHS. He led a project to develop requirements for a web portal to match post-secondary students with HHS employees for experiential learning placements. Work continued after Mr. Tobias’s first stage of work, and HHS’s new product will be live by summer 2020.
The experience he gained not only improved his skills but ultimately led to full-time employment at HHS.
“It gave me a lot of confidence,” says Mr. Tobias. “I had never had business experience like that, where I led a project, developed requirements and presented a business case to decision-makers.”
Mr. Tobias’s technology skills were well-suited to HHS’s expanding focus on digital health solutions, and his placement supervisor encouraged him and helped prepare him to apply for a position as a transformational analyst in the eHealth Office. He was the successful applicant and is now working on several digital health projects – from a portal where patients can see their health-care records to new applications to virtually link health-care professionals to collaborate on patient care.
“The partnership between these two innovative organizations, Mohawk and HHS, is creating incredible value for both organizations and for graduates like me, who had a unique opportunity to gain real-world experience,” says Mr. Tobias. “Now, I’m working to ‘pay it forward’ by advising and mentoring some of the new business analysis students at Mohawk.”
Gaining work experience, contributing fresh ideas
There is a burgeoning demand for clean technology solutions across the country. “Businesses are looking for ways to becoming more efficient and sustainable in the long run,” says Christine Langois, supervisor at the Technology Access Centre in Bio-Innovation at Collège La Cité based in Ottawa. “They are also looking for ways to meet increasingly stringent regulations or reach new clients and new markets.”
Colleges and institutes play an important role in applied research. At the Technology Access Centre in Bio-Innovation, for example, research aims to enable industry partners to meet market demand as well as lower their environmental footprint, explains Ms. Langois.
Through the support of Career-Launcher Internships from Colleges and Institutes Canada, which are funded by the Government of Canada as part of the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy, the centre has worked with a number of interns who have helped to advance applied research projects, says Ms. Langois. With industry benefiting from the solutions and interns gaining valuable experience in a work environment, the program sets up a “win-win situation,” she says.
“Getting work experience in this economy is becoming more and more difficult, and knowing how to run an experiment is different from having the opportunity to use these skills in a real project. Applying their skills in research gives the interns valuable experience in what is out there in terms of projects and innovation in the biotechnology sector.”
Yet the impact doesn’t end there. La Cité’s Technology Access Centre in Bio-Innovation also gains much by welcoming new graduates to the team, and recently offered its third intern a full-time position, says Ms. Langois. “We find that interns who come to us are highly motivated and bring lots of fresh and innovative ideas. Working with them gives us a chance to evaluate a pool of potential candidates.”
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s Editorial Department was not involved in its creation.