Wondering how you can start building your talent pipeline? Look no further than Algonquin College, which has been an integral part of Ottawa’s business community since its founding in 1967. The school has served as a partner in the prosperity of many businesses — including Mercury Filmworks and Nokia — through sourcing new talent, upskilling existing employees and even partnering on research and development projects.
OBJ publisher Michael Curran sat down with Algonquin College president and CEO Claude Brulé to learn more about how Ottawa businesses and prospective students can take advantage of Algonquin’s numerous services, and how the school can help you in building your workforce.
This is an edited transcript. To hear the full webinar, check out the video above.
MC: I wanted to talk to you about work-integrated learning, something I think is really key to colleges. But also maybe you can refer to how Algonquin can help with local hiring needs?
CB: That pipeline for talent is so critical for employers. So we want to work very closely with employers to understand their needs. And there’s multiple ways to form that pipeline. It could be that you’re looking for entry-level graduates. Many of our programs already produce excellent graduates (for many) entry-level positions that may suffice for your needs. Or it may be that you need something customized. You may need something that’s delivered on your site, that touches on the equipment that your company handles, for instance. And you touched on work-integrated learning. Basically, it’s a form of learning that takes place in a workplace setting, which could be at the employer, or it could be something that’s simulated or done, perhaps on our site. So we have, for instance, what we call “learning enterprises” that mimic a workplace. We have a restaurant, we have a dental clinic, we have a hairstyling and aesthetic salon — and they take in clients. And so we are able to make our students go through a learning process as if they were in the workplace. But we also do a large amount of placements with the employers in the community, whether they’re cooperative education, field placements, clinical placements — they can take a wide variety of forms. So it prepares the students for (employment), and while they’re still in their academic programs and have a bit of a safety net.
MC: Algonquin can really help with what we call “upskilling,” or continuing the education of people that are already in the workforce. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
CB: For us, as a bit of a finishing school, lots of people are coming back either to continue to sharpen their skills, their competencies in their work, or perhaps move up. And we have all kinds of offerings that contribute to that, whether it’s formal (what we call a graduate certificate program) or informal, such as our many certificate programs, a course through our online division, continuing education courses, or microcredentials that are now stackable. We have some programs where the entire class is made up of students that have a diploma, or a degree, or even a master’s already. And they’re coming back for that specific specialization that they need in their program. For example, we have a geographic information system program, or GIS. And you can apply GIS to just about any discipline, whether agriculture, transportation, maritime, HR — you can layer that discipline on top of any underlying discipline the person already has. So we have a large number of people who want this as a specialization, and they come to Algonquin for that.
MC: Give us some other examples of knowledge transferred between business and the College.
CB: All of our programs or program clusters need to have what we call a program advisory committee (PAC). There could be private sector, public sector, they’re made up of people who hire our graduates, hiring managers, people in the companies that are related to that program, and we allow for the conversation to be around what’s needed for the program to stay relevant. That helps us address any shortcomings or gaps that we need to be thinking about in the future, to continue to make the program relevant, and produce the graduates that those employers will need for their company. So that’s one example of knowledge transfer. Employers looking to develop, adapt and innovate their workforce can also access the College’s Corporate Training Centre, which specializes in professional development training for individuals and teams already in the workforce, including custom solutions. The corporate training division offers both ready-made training programs and customized solutions for a range of industries from manufacturing, to construction, to government, to technology.