University is a place of growth – and one of the best ways for students to grow is through experiential learning and co-op work. Alumni have the opportunity to engage with the university to give students these experiential opportunities. At UFV, the Centre for Experiential and Career Education (CECE) is the office that provides these opportunities and helps students grow in their careers while they are completing their studies.
“Our overarching goal is to continue cultivating experiential learning culture to be an engaged university — a community-engaged university,” says Larissa Horne, Experiential Education Coordinator for CECE. Horne acts as a matchmaker, identifying and pairing up community partners with faculty members whose students can assist them, bringing together student ideas and energy, and faculty expertise to address community challenges. Out of these partnerships come co-op opportunities, practicums, and projects.
In the past, such initiatives have included marketing and public relations campaigns for non-profit organizations or municipalities such as Chilliwack or Abbotsford, as well as social justice-oriented projects around food security in the Fraser Valley.
“Organizations like Archway and NGO types benefit in terms of spreading the message across,” explains Horne. “And students subsequently benefit by becoming more aware of their community needs, more civically aware, and just becoming better citizens as a result of this project.”
Hiring students not only gives them a leg up in their career development, but also can bring fresh ideas and perspectives to employers.
“In the case of municipalities,” says Horne, “it could really lead slowly to a culture change within the civic bureaucracies because students bring their latest ideas, passions, enthusiasm, and energy. They bring people inside City Hall together and that inspires civic staff to look at different concepts.”
And students aren’t just limited to working on short-term projects. CECE’s co-operative education (co-op) program also offers opportunities for companies to hire students in a longer-term capacity for specific jobs.
“Usually, students are trying to get their foot in the door for their career when they graduate,” says BaoVan Hill, the Arts Business Library Co-op Coordinator at CECE. “As seen with business students like accounting students, for example, they become accountants later on, and [we] see them along their career journey.”
On some occasions, co-op alumni retain their positions after graduating and then come back to UFV to assist other students in getting the same opportunities that gave them a leg up in their careers.
“One of our students is Natasha, who was an HR student, and she did co-op,” says Hill. “Now she works for MNP in the HR field. She has that power to reach out to students and get involved in the community, but also be able to hire or help students through the hiring process. So we tap into her when we want some assistance or help, and she taps into us when she’s trying to recruit.”
Hill says that in Natasha’s case, working with CECE gives her an opportunity to connect with the community, and with her alma mater. Natasha is also not the only UFV alum who works at MNP.
Partnerships between the university and the local community not only provide opportunities for students but are an excellent way for businesses and organizations to learn about their future employee base.
“I think employers gain a tremendous amount of experience as well as students,” says Deanna Devitt, Work-Integrated Learning and Co-Op Coordinator for Science Programs at CECE. “They get to test out an employee or potential employee for eight months or however long.”
There are several ways organizations can interact with CECE to build these partnerships with students. CECE’s primary platform is CareerLink, which is powered by Simplicity. This platform acts as a job board where students can build resumes and portfolios to search for employment opportunities, and employers can post jobs.
But for employers, CareerLink is also an easy and free platform for engaging with the university and its students — a one-stop-shop for career engagement.
“It’s where employers can set up their accounts, set up their profile, and post their own jobs,” says Devitt. “We have a list of the types of experiences that they can post, from co-op to seasonal, part-time, or full-time. And we’ll be expanding that list in the future.”
“[We] encourage those companies where alumni are working to register with us,” says Horne, “because then we in turn, increase students who publish their updated profiles and post their updated resumes, after they’ve done all this wonderful work and projects, so that local employers could see them once they publish their resumes and their profiles.”
CECE is also available to assist in the process of creating postings or profiles.
“For Co-op, we will post the jobs for them,” says Devitt. “We will help walk them through that.”