The Lassonde School of Engineering at York University has launched the Digital Technologies program, Canada’s first fully work-integrated degree program, designed to address the country’s digital skills shortage, which finds 80 per cent of Canadian businesses reporting they need more workers to meet their technological needs.
In the new program, learners will be employed full-time for four years, earning a salary while studying for a bachelor of applied science (BASc) degree. The first cohort of students includes professionals looking to upskill; university and college transfer students; and high-potential high-school graduates aspiring to a career in technology.
Students will spend approximately 80 per cent of their work hours on the job, and 20 per cent dedicated to theoretical, in-class learning, delivered during five-day block periods every five to six weeks. Those enrolled will continuously apply their academic learning towards real revenue-generating roles while integrating their industry knowledge in class.
The students have been hired by a range of organizations looking to attract, develop and retain talented software developers, cyber security analysts and data scientists. The organizations include: ALSTOM Transport Canada, Bank of Montreal, Ceridian Canada, Ontario Power Generation, Quanser Consulting and Shopify.
Through Lassonde’s next-generation work-integrated learning program, students hired by the partner organizations can make meaningful connections between academic and work learning experiences, and access the latest expertise, knowledge and resources that a university provides.
“To scale up Canada’s tech workforce, universities and employers need to collaborate to create and facilitate more affordable, inclusive post-secondary education pathways to digital technologies careers. We’re doing just that with the new Digital Technologies program, partnering with six forward-thinking organizations to empower individuals from groups who have not traditionally been represented in the information and communications technology sector,” says Jane Goodyer, dean of the Lassonde School of Engineering. “This is important, with research showing that employers with a more diverse workforce perform better financially and contribute to a more decolonizing, equitable, diverse and inclusive society.”
The companies Ceridian and Shopify were a part of Lassonde’s “trailblazer” group of 15 businesses, public sector organizations and industry associations that helped co-design and co-develop the program. Senior technology experts from these organizations contributed to curriculum and learning outcomes, ensuring the program delivers the required knowledge, skills and professionalism of graduates.
Based on a proven U.K. model and Lassonde’s partnership with Shopify, offering its Dev Degree program at York (50 per cent workplace and 50 per cent classroom) since 2018, the new Digital Technologies program will operate on a full-calendar-year basis, with learners earning 30 credits per year. It will be offered through York’s Markham Campus and in its first year will be delivered through York University’s Learning Space in IBM Canada’s headquarters in Markham, Ont. In addition to accessing York University student services, learners will have a learning co-ordinator, professional skills coach, and a company supervisor to help mentor and support them. The experience and contacts they gain from working full-time throughout their degree are intended to give them a solid base for success after they graduate.