By Emily Ask
The University of Regina has just instituted a guarantee to its students: they will have jobs within six months of graduating, or receive another year of schooling tuition-free.
The university cites their Co-operative Education program as the backbone of their confident claim.
The program focuses on hands-on work experience through partnerships with various companies. This allows students to make the transition from school to the workforce quickly and seamlessly.
“We provide strong support for students, good connections with communities and industry,” U of R president and University of Calgary alumnus Vianne Timmons tells the Gauntlet, “We build very strong relationships with companies locally, nationally and internationally.”
Timmons also stressed that student support is very important, even after graduation.
“We work with the student for six months after graduating to help him find a job, and if this doesn’t happen we provide him with another year of education. That’s 18 months extra we’re willing to commit to our students,” she said.
Timmons also said she doesn’t expect the economy to effect the university’s guarantee.
“We’re not worried about that,” she said. “We think our graduates are the kind companies want working for them. This program is an investment.”
In Calgary a job guarantee could affect graduates positively.
Jesse Chaulk, a U of C graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering, has been looking for a job since he graduated last spring.
“I went through four years, worked hard, got my degree, honours with distinction, and here I am still looking for a job,” he lamented.
“Experience is much more valuable than academics,” he said. “Experience is what the industry needs. Companies need people who can come in and get the job done. They don’t want to train people for months before they can become [fully contributing staff].”
Chaulk said that other engineers he knows have also had trouble finding jobs. He said the university should place a stronger emphasis on work experience to make students more employable straight out of school.
Student’s union vice-president external Kay She agrees that work experience needs to be more heavily promoted. She uses the tremendous success of the Students’ Union’s Student Work Experience Enrichment Program as an example.
“SWEEP helps students find summer jobs [that are relevant to their degrees]. These jobs pay $12 an hour, but SWEEP adds an extra three dollars to make it a livable wage.”
Carla Heinrichs, a third-year psychology student, said there’s no lack of work experience available in her field, you just have to go after it.
“Students who really make an effort to get a [summer or part-time] job in their field are the ones that will be hired. Companies want hard workers, they want that drive,” said Heinrichs.
Students may also contact the Career Center for information about the U of C’s own Co-operative/Internship Programs, which allow students to complete the regular curriculum while incorporating paid work terms into their degree. Requirements and involvement are different for each faculty.
Bryan Leedham, a third-year geomatics engineer, is optimistic about the Schulich School of Engineering’s one-year internship program, even though he had a hard time finding a job within his field over the summer.
“Last summer I was pretty discouraged, but Schulich has built many strong relationships with companies in Calgary and internationally,” said Leedham. “They placed most of the students who applied to the internship program last year, so I don’t have any reason to believe that rate would change.”