As local tech firms look for top-tier talent in a tight labour market, a local academic institution is taking an innovative approach to ensure its students are at the top of the hiring list.
The University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Engineering is partnering with local industry leaders to provide students with co-op opportunities, internships and hands-on training to help them develop the working skills they need to be successful both inside and outside of the classroom.
The faculty and its partners have designed new technical training programs and course material for students at all stages of their education, focusing on subjects such as machine learning, cloud computing and business communication.
Through these new education opportunities, the Faculty of Engineering is helping to meet the evolving needs of employers while ensuring its students seamlessly transfer their skills to the workplace, says Jacques Beauvais, dean of the Faculty of Engineering at uOttawa.
“We don’t want our students to have a purely textbook learning experience,” says Beauvais. “We are finding ways to connect them with companies that are working on the latest technologies so they can learn about the future of engineering first-hand.”
Connecting with CENGN
To bridge the gap between industry and academia, the Faculty of Engineering is developing new programs alongside leading industry players such as local telecom consortium CENGN. The organization counts Bell, Cisco, Nokia and other industry heavyweights among its members.
The Faculty of Engineering recently deepened its partnership with the organization by licensing CENGN’s Cloud Computing Specialist certification program so the material could be included in a course for graduate and fourth year undergraduate students. This is a certification that all technical interns of CENGN earn when onboarded by the company.
“Because we are working on such cutting-edge technologies, every student that we’ve ever had work with us had to go through this intensive training before they could really be productive,” says Peter Heath, senior manager of training programs at CENGN. “The University of Ottawa saw the value in that particular training and the partnership grew from there.”
Participants in the program gain critical data analysis skills, a deeper understanding of cloud computing software and hands-on lab experience. They also receive credits towards their uOttawa degree, as well as CENGN badges they can include on their social media profile to help them showcase their skills.
In addition, the Faculty of Engineering worked with CENGN and the university’s Professional Development Institute (PDI) to build out a cloud computing program for private and public-sector professionals. This continuing education program includes six self-paced online courses from CENGN that are centered around DevOps, open-source coding software and machine learning.
Now in its second year, the program has garnered a lot of attention from both students and working professionals looking to beef up their resumes, says Liam Peyton, vice-dean of graduate studies at the Faculty of Engineering.
“PhD students, masters students and fourth-year undergrad students are interested in this program because they understand it will make them stand out in the job market,” says Peyton. “This is the cherry on top of their education.”
The online training program also provides students with unparalleled hands-on learning using CENGN technology. Oftentimes students will only have access to a simulator or some type of stripped-down software that doesn’t give a realistic portrayal of what it’s like to work with a technology, says Heath. In this case, participants will learn on CENGN’s production-grade cloud platform, giving students first-hand experience that they can take directly to industry.
“CENGN’s goal is to position Canada as an innovator and that’s exactly what we are doing through this partnership,” adds Heath. “We are isolating the skills that the world’s largest networking firms are looking for and bringing that directly to the next generation of workers.”
uOttawa Engineering increases connections
On top of the Faculty of Engineering’s work with CENGN, the school is developing other industry partnerships, including:
• KeyPath Education: To create a world-class online learning experience for Canadians working full-time, the faculty partnered with Toronto-based KeyPath Education to deliver its fully online Masters in Engineering Management program, with application-to-graduation personalized online support for students.
• Mitacs: As a way to help foster new partnerships with businesses and organizations in Ottawa, the faculty is working with Mitacs, a Canadian non-profit that provides funding for research projects. Offsetting the cost of these projects helps the university open doors to new partnerships and training opportunities.
• Professional Development Institute: To further its lifelong learning initiative, the Faculty of Engineering is partnering with the PDI to develop training courses for career professionals looking to build on their skills. Included in these programs is the CENGN course as well as a new offering from the uOttawa Engineering Sales School: Business Communication and Influence program.