By Devin Kreuger
The GTA is home to world-class post-secondary educational institutions, so local businesses have numerous low-risk options for recruiting top-notch personnel. No doubt you already know about campus-based Career Centres, but have you considered taking on an internship or co-op student?
Experiential learning opportunities have been growing in popularity with students. They offer a taste of real-world experience and provide students with an opportunity to showcase their skills for a potential employer. ‘Learning by doing’ fits well with the mind-set of the younger generation, who tend to be open to learning from others and keen to prove their value. Such experiential learning positions can be paid (co-operative) or unpaid and can take the form of community service, internship or practicum placements, or engagement on an industry or community based research project.
For an employer, the benefits for free or low-cost yet highly-skilled and motivated temporary workers seem obvious. The required commitment to these students rarely lasts longer than an academic year, and mentoring opportunities of only one day a week are an attractive option for busy supervisors. If assigned to a specific work project aligned with their studies, the time and expense of training can be minimized. Bringing on board some temporary student assistance can add diversity to the work place, boost workplace productivity and help get long-gestating projects off the back-burner.
But the benefits to the employer aren’t limited to the direct impact of having an extra set of hands available. Employers also get an early opportunity to gauge the talents of prospective permanent candidates and to sell themselves as quality places for students to begin their careers upon graduation. Upon returning to campus from an unpaid internship with a favourable impression of the employer, those experiential learning students can become instant on-campus advertisements promoting the benefits of an employer.
As an extra bonus, collaborating with a post-secondary institution by taking on experiential learning students can help a business or community organization to build a relationship with its local post-secondary institution. Taking on an internship student once a year can quickly turn into even greater collaborative opportunities, such as research initiatives with world-class faculty and/or active engagement in program development.
Experiential learning provides a valuable forum for learning and academic, professional and personal growth for students; close relationships between motivated students and faculty and mentoring supervisors; and new platforms for collaboration and access between the university and the community. All in all, it’s a win-win-win, for the employer, the student and the educational institution.