Algonquin College currently employs 1,387 full time and 2,714 part time people. Photo credit: Connor Black

When film and media production professor and program coordinator Jeremy Atherton heard the news of Algonquin College being named a National Capital Region’s Top Employer for the eighth year in a row he wasn’t surprised.

“We’re a creative bunch,” Atherton said. “We don’t always take a straight line to the finish and the school has always been supportive of us.”

Although it’s been just over a month since the college was awarded on Feb. 2 in a special magazine feature in the Ottawa Citizen, the feelings of good cheer about the news continue.

Canada’s Top 100 Employers is an annual competition organized by Mediacorp Canada Inc. which awards exceptional workplaces on both a national and regional basis.

Established in 2006, the National Capital Region’s Top Employers 16th annual award recognizes employers in the Ottawa-Gatineau metropolitan area that led their industries in offering exceptional places to work.

“This is an exciting and meaningful achievement for Algonquin,” said Diane McCutcheon, vice president of human resources. “One of the foundational goals in the College’s strategic plan is to be recognized as an exceptional place to work by our employees – and that is precisely what this award is about.”

Employers are evaluated using the same eight criteria as the national level: physical workplace; work atmosphere and social; health, financial, and family benefits; vacation and time off; employee communications; performance management; training and skills development; and community involvement.

“The team here is amazing, they trust their teachers and give them the independence to deliver their courses how they see fit, but also provide support when needed,” said Alex Hadjisophocleous, a part-time personal finance teacher in the business administration program. “Overall, I think that the organizational culture plays a big part in making Algonquin College a top employer.”

Reasons for Algonquin College’s recognition include the various campaigns it participates in such as its Myself Today campaign, offering a mental health practitioner benefit of $2,000. In 2020 Algonquin expanded the Dog Squad, allowing employees to bring their furry friends to campus to alleviate student and staff stress.

“They’re required to meet very strict standards, then they get to be part of the Dog Squad and they can come in and really help with the mental health and wellbeing of our employees,” said McCutcheon.

Other reasons for the win include the college’s family benefits and its employee retirement planning.

Algonquin’s family benefits include a full year of paid leave for new mothers and parental leave ranging from 35 to 37 weeks for fathers and adoptive parents. Algonquin also offers parental leave extensions through unpaid leaves of absence, and onsite childcare upon return.

The college offers phased-in work hours for employees nearing retirement, on top of retirement planning assistance and a defined benefit pension plan.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while unemployment plagues our region, Algonquin introduced an employee toolkit to provide resources and support to staff while adjusting to remote delivery.

“Everyone worked together to make the transition as smooth as possible,” said Hadjisophocleous. “The employee toolkit has been very helpful and continues to evolve over time.”

Algonquin College will undoubtedly be in the running for a ninth consecutive National Capital Region’s Top Employer award come next year.

“Algonquin truly helps its people reach their potential,” said McCutcheon. “I have experienced that firsthand.”