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Opinion: Experiential learning helps students prepare for the future

After more than 40 years of successful cooperation and internship programs, Concordia is ready to scale.

Article Author:

Graham Carr  •  Montreal Gazette Special Edition
"Beginning this September, Concordia University is offering every incoming undergraduate student at least one course-based experiential learning opportunity," university president Graham Carr writes.
"From this September, Concordia University will: Incoming undergraduate students will have at least one course-based experiential learning opportunity," wrote University President Graham Carr. Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

Students, Families and Colleges Prepare for the New Fall Semester As the world prepares, the mission to equip the next generation of talent to meet the immediate and future needs of society becomes doubly urgent.

The world is facing dramatic changes and unprecedented challenges. Economies everywhere are suffering from inflation, labor shortages and supply chain disruptions. New technologies are spreading at breakneck speed. The organization of work is undergoing a decisive transformation. And globally, parts of social fabric are rapidly collapsing.

We need an adaptable and engaged workforce and citizens more than ever to navigate these transitions and beyond. That's why, starting this September, Concordia University will offer every new student at least one course-based experiential learning opportunity. Concordia also aims to enable freshmen beginning in 2025 to take advantage of two experiential learning opportunities through work-integrated learning, study abroad experiences, research, and community-based or co-curricular degree earning. .

It's an ambitious undertaking. But given the partnerships we are establishing and developing, Concordia is one of the first universities in Quebec, one of the first in Canada, and intends to achieve such specific goals. is.

Experiential learning opportunities enhance student education by providing curated access to people, knowledge, and networks that complement the boundaries of standard degree learning. Exposure to different cultures, workplaces, and performance expectations will help students make the transition to post-bachelor life faster and smoother.

Undergraduates who do co-op job placements or internships, actively participate in research projects or field schools, or participate in academic exchange programs generally have good academic performance. Excellent. Hands-on experience and stepping up will also increase your chances of being hired by an organization or employer.

But the challenge for universities, especially large ones like Concordia, with her over 30,000 undergraduate students, is to deliver experiential learning at scale. is. We have been a successful cooperative and internship program for her over 40 years.

Beyond privileged access to the talent pipeline, the overwhelming majority of employers believe that student interns build capabilities within their organizations and provide new ideas, fresh energy, technical skills, and digital expertise. We believe it brings knowledge, and in Concordia's case, culture. and linguistic diversity.

To be successful and sustainable at scale, experiential learning must not be transactional. It must be a mutual investment and a meaningful partnership that benefits employers, host universities and colleges of origin on an equal footing with the student's experience.

It is important to involve alumni and advocacy groups such as the Business + Higher Education Roundtable to mobilize networks and expand the potential employment pool. So is the support of generous donors such as the Doggone Foundation, which offers paid internships to Concordia students in the arts, and RBC, which helps students from marginalized backgrounds through its Beat the Odds program.

Governments also play an important role. In terms of policy impact, the value proposition of experiential learning can be seen in the public interest to encourage employer participation or to offset the costs for universities to arrange placements and provide professional mentoring. It doesn't just reward your investment.

Investing in recruitment not only helps businesses and organizations in metropolitan centers, it is also an effective tool in areas where recruiting labor can be difficult. Also, by expanding the qualifications for work-integrated study, more talented international students will choose to stay in Quebec or elsewhere in Canada after graduation.

We live in a time of extraordinary social and economic turmoil. But by working together across sectors, we can deepen the value of university education and better align the undergraduate experience with global diversity, the changing world of work today, and the economy of tomorrow. Can promote the prosperity of Canadian society. Investing in experiential learning is a cost-effective way to enrich all futures.

Graham Carr is President and Vice President of Concordia University.

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