How do you get a job without experience? But how do you get experience without a job?
It’s an age-old question for students, even continuing education students. They’re back at school because they’re underemployed, want to move up in their careers or are looking to switch industries.
To tackle this Catch-22, McMaster University is the first in Canada to give continuing education students live, industry project-based learning with leading experiential learning partner Riipen Networks. Usually reserved for undergraduate-level students, this partnership gives McMaster continuing education students unmatched opportunities to take the theories learned in class and apply them to real challenges presented by industry partners.
“This is a huge value-add for our students,” says Dan Piedra, Assistant Director, McMaster University Centre for Continuing Education. “Nothing brings course material to life like actually working to solve a real business problem for a partner company. And beyond the value in the classroom, this kind of experiential learning is extremely useful for students, providing an opportunity for deeper networking with professionals in their industry as well as the option to build a project portfolio which is key for job search.”
“We’re proud to be working with McMaster to kick off Riipen’s first formal partnership with a continuing education program,” says Dana Stephenson, Co-Founder, Director of Academic Partners, Riipen. “We’re committed to expanding experiential learning opportunities for students of all profiles and backgrounds, and we see this commitment matched at McMaster in the university’s enthusiasm for creating new pathways to career readiness for their students. Gone are the days of dated textbook case studies on fake companies with no real-world application.”
During the pilot phase, students in the Human Resources Management program created employee handbooks, new employee onboarding plans and employee engagement strategies for industry partners which included Piller’s Fine Foods, Dana Hospitality, Hamilton YWCA, Nurse Next Door, Build it by Design and the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada.
In person and online courses have been redesigned to fully incorporate the experiential learning project in the latter weeks of the course. The group project element also replaces exams in several of the courses.
Along with adding to the existing Human Resources Management courses, McMaster plans to roll out experiential learning projects in several program areas by the end of 2018.