This past summer, students in the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) participated in a new career-focused course, Professional Development in the Environmental Sector: Preparation for Experiential Work Placement.
Designed to prepare third- and fourth-year students to find work placement opportunities, the course helps students acquire new lifelong professional skills and gain competitive advantages for when they begin their career search. Participating students were able to take advantage of several interactive professional development opportunities, including networking with successful FES alumni; connecting with RBC’s senior manager of early talent acquisition and campus branch manager about how to maintain a professional online presence; and resume and cover letter coaching sessions.
Students began the three-week intensive course by completing a variety of activities: self-discovery of their career goals, passions, strengths and weaknesses; developing key skills for job searching; learning how to write an effective resume and cover letter; and gaining insight into dealing with the anxieties of the interview process. These activities helped prepare students to network and ask the right questions during the interactive sessions with supportive community partners such as the York U Career Centre, RBC On-Campus and FES alumni.
The course ended with a special FES alumni panel and speed networking event, where alumni from different environmental industries such as sustainability, government, education, technology and conservation were invited to talk about their career journeys. The alumni also offered guidance to students beginning their own professional journeys. After the panel, students participated in 10-minute speed networking sessions with each alumni mentor, giving them a chance to ask their own personal questions.
Fourth-year students Sineet Bayru and Bianca Whiffen highlighted the valuable skills gained, helping them to better understand how to prepare for the current job market and what they needed to develop for a job application. Both students described this part of the course as one of their favourite experiences. “It allowed me to talk to postgraduates about their academic and work experience,” said Whiffen.
Bayru was enthusiastic about the opportunity “to network and get a new perspective into the workforce.” Motivated by these sessions, both students will begin their placement search during the winter term.
At FES, students are also encouraged to seek out international experiential education opportunities. Fourth-year BES student Tristan Brun, with the help of the York International Internship Program, chose a placement in Lobitos, Peru, with EcoSwell, an organization that guides the development of vulnerable communities through a path of sustainability. Brun said his time in Peru was memorable. He grew his professional network, met amazing individuals and gained practical experience that positively impacted the community.
“During my time as a renewable energy intern, I helped by designing and sourcing materials for the wind turbine that they are building,” he said. “I also helped create an eco-tour of the dry forest near Lobitos to help spread awareness of the threats to the endangered species and habitat in the region. Furthermore, I helped facilitate a groundwater extraction workshop that EcoSwell hosted.”
Work-focused experiential education is on the rise in FES, and the Faculty anticipates that more students will venture outside their local communities to participate in projects with an environmental impact.
Submitted by Rosanna Chowdhury