Only two years into one of its mandates to provide students with work experience that complements their classroom learning, the YU Experience Hub can be proud of its success in its collaboration with Faculties, Employers and Community Partners.
The hub is a vibrant enterprise. There has been a 12 per cent increase year over year in the number of students participating in work terms, and last year, the hub saw a 50 per cent increase in student applications and 76 per cent increase in student enrolment in the Liberal Arts and Professional Studies Internship Program.
Now, there’s an opportunity for additional growth, thanks to a new federal program that focuses on experiential education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields and on attracting students from designated populations (women in STEM, Indigenous, Immigrants, students with disabilities, first year students) to develop their workplace skills.
“We are poised to take advantage of the Student Work Integrated Learning Program (SWILP) and the $73 million the federal government has made available over five years,” said Kathleen Winningham, director of the YU Experience Hub. “It promises to be a very competitive program, with universities across the country participating, so we are working with the program’s designated industry partners to leverage funding to make sure our employment partners are included. We are also spreading the word among students and faculty so they don’t miss out.”
The program is beneficial to both employers and students. Once the industry partners determine that an employer qualifies for the program, the company is eligible for a 50 per cent wage subsidy up to $5,000 for meaningful work-integrated learning opportunities in STEM and a 70 per cent wage subsidy up to $7,000 for under-represented students (as defined earlier). The program’s goal is to provide 60,000 students experiential opportunities over five years, with a focus on developing students’ soft career skills.
“We are proud of our successes to date, but we don’t intend to rest on our laurels,” Winningham said. “Studies have shown, time after time, that students who have work experience related to their university programs are more engaged in their programs, are quicker to get jobs after graduation and receive better salaries. This program can only enhance those opportunities.”
By Elaine Smith, special contributing writer to Innovatus