By: Kelly Kent

Relevant work experience is one of the first things an employer checks a resume for when considering hiring someone for a job, but it can be a difficult thing to obtain while enrolled in college or university full-time.

College president Kent MacDonald has plans to change that, however, by integrating an out-of-classroom work experience into every full-time program at Algonquin by 2017.

An out-of-classroom work experience can take many forms said Jo-Ann Aubut, acting dean of academic development.
Often co-op is used as a universal term for any field experience gained while earning a diploma or degree, but Aubut said this is an incorrect generalization.

A co-op is generally a paid work experience with a company or within an industry and must extend for a period of at least 30 per cent of total classroom hours. Currently Algonquin has 31 co-op programs in addition to full-time programs.

Other forms of work experience can be field placements or clinical placements. Health students, for example, are placed in hospitals or with paramedics to gain experience relevant to their studies.

Applied research is another way students can gain out-of-classroom work experience through their program.
At the time of the last inventory in 2009, some form of out-of-classroom work experience was already incorporated into 65 per cent of Algonquin’s full-time programs and Aubut said that number has probably increased because of new programs.
Every new program must meet the criteria of the ‘Algonquin experience,’ and one of those criteria is out-of-classroom work experience, said Aubut, who oversees new program development.

The benefits of students participating in out-of-classroom work experiences are far-reaching for both the students and the community.

Several programs at Algonquin integrate ‘service learning,’ which is another type of out-of-classroom work experience where students go out into the community and perform services for people who could otherwise not afford them. Dental hygiene students, for example, perform services for street youth as part of their program.

The main idea, though, is to set Algonquin students on the path to success.

“First of all,” said Aubut, “when a student has an opportunity to work in an industry or with an industry partner, they are able to transfer the learning they have gained in the classroom or in the lab on campus and apply that to a real life setting.”

Cathie Edmond, manager of co-operative education, said out-of-classroom work experiences can help students to land jobs after they have received their diplomas.

“While field placements are often short-term and unpaid, students can build valuable networks and can tap into developed contacts when searching for a full-time job upon graduation.”

Students at Algonquin agree. Theresa Benedict, an Aboriginal studies student, said, “I think having a placement on your resume would be very beneficial because then potential employers will know that you had experience in the work force.”