By Rosa Lokaisingh
The communication gap between industry and academia is so wide that it has significantly impacted the high youth under-employment rate in Mississauga and surrounding areas. After conducting several Business and Student Engagement Focus Groups over the last year through Advantage Mississauga, several challenges and issues were identified. Let me share a few highlights with you:
• Students have a sense of entitlement, to getting the best jobs after graduation, having paid a high price for education and up- to- date industry knowledge and technology
• Students are not sufficiently prepared for what employers expect in today’s workplace, and when put on a placement, the employers need to spend 2/3 of the co-op hours on training, leaving little time for tasks or projects being completed.
• While Campus Career Fairs are well-organized and provide good opportunities, the events do not give a true reflection of the vast array of opportunities available in the marketplace, in particular, those found in small to medium sized businesses, as they are hugely under-represented at these events
• Businesses are too busy to train students in their field of study in co-ops or experiential learning opportunities, therefore they return to school learning far less than they expected, and this ends up being discouraging to students
How can we bridge this gap? Advantage Mississauga, being the liaison for connecting business and academia, we organize events and roundtable discussions that bring businesses, academia and students together to discuss barriers and challenges, and collaborate on finding solutions through programs and partnerships.
Action steps generated out of focus groups/events/discussions
We do surveys for updated feedback, have one-on-one meetings and workshops with businesses sharing resources through community partnerships and organizations such as UTM, Sheridan College, Magnet @ Ryerson, and SITPSE (Student IT Projects Social Enterprise), resulting in raising the awareness for the business community to participate in creating innovative projects that can employ teams of students. The school no longer dictates the timeframe for experiential learning opportunities, the project does!
Academia is coordinating with Advantage Mississauga to ensure that students are “job-ready” through a Professional Preparation Program before placing them on projects. Finally, both businesses and students are now seeing the possibilities of a working partnership to increase youth engagement and employment in the community at large, while increasing regional economic prosperity.
Rosa Lokaisingh is the Project Lead for Advantage Mississauga. She can be reached at [email protected] Learn more about Advantage Mississauga -check out our video.