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Sheridan’s New Virtual Internship Program Supporting Students, Community During Pandemic

July 09, 2020

In response to challenges surrounding work-integrated learning opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sheridan College has launched an innovative program that provides students with various remote and virtual internship options, helps community partners resolve pandemic-related issues and is a key contributor toward a total of nearly 250 paid internship positions created by the college this summer.

Sheridan’s Virtual Internship Program (VIP), developed by the college’s Career-Integrated Learning (CIL) department in collaboration with its Faculty of Animation, Art and Design (FAAD) and Entrepreneurship Discovery and Growth Engine (EDGE) hub, supports Sheridan degree students who need or prefer an alternative to a traditional internship during the pandemic. The VIP allows participants to earn their work-term credit remotely, offers the flexibility of three different streams to choose from, features collaborative opportunities and positions them to have a meaningful and valuable learning experience.

“The speed at which our staff was able to pivot to ensure internships continue during these trying times demonstrates the very adaptability and resiliency that we strive to instill in our students,” says Dr. Janet Morrison, Sheridan’s President and Vice-Chancellor. “Our VIP also fosters engagement with industry and communities to create new approaches for hands-on learning, which is one of the priority objectives of our five-year Strategic Plan.”

Community partners in the VIP include Food for Life, Halton Region’s largest food recovery program; the educational arm of one of the world’s largest technology companies; the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research, which conducts applied research into areas of practical concern and immediate relevance to older adults and their families; and Sheridan’s Galvanizing Education Task Force, which is striving to redefine higher education as part of the Sheridan 2024 Strategic Plan.

The three streams within the VIP include 1) Work; 2) Innovation Accelerator; or 3) COVID-19 Project. Each of these new offerings also includes a 10-week Career-Ready Competency program, other learning modules, and a guest speaker series with relevant webinars throughout the program. 

The VIP’s unique Innovation Accelerator option engages students in a 10-week facilitated process that enables interdisciplinary group projects. Students will apply human-centered design methodology to develop solutions for these four significant challenges faced by the VIP’s community collaborators:

• Re-imagining how Food for Life delivers healthy food to approximately 24,000 people per week during the pandemic in ways that are most safe, convenient and accessible for all — including potentially meeting them at transit locations and primary access points

• Maintaining and improving the emotional, personal and social connections between educators and young learners (13 and under) throughout the pandemic

• Enhancing older citizens’ access to and engagement in creative and performing arts through the use of innovative technologies

• Re-envisioning and designing implementable and innovative ways in which higher-education experiences are delivered, both now and in the future

The VIP also accounts for many of the 235 paid internship positions Sheridan has created for students this summer by leveraging various relationships, partnerships and programs. “Due to COVID-19’s disruption of our economy, student employment opportunities are not what they have been in the past. Sheridan is supporting our students by directly hiring hundreds of students that allows them to earn and learn as they complete their internships,” says Matthew Rempel, Director, Career-Integrated Learning. “We also benefit from our students’ immense talent and creativity as they will play an invaluable role in the evolution of our programs and services while also contributing to our community.”

“Sheridan is truly grateful for the support that has been shown by local members of parliament Omar Alghabra (Mississauga Centre), Anita Anand (Oakville) and Sonia Sidhu (Brampton South), each of whom recognized the value of the innovation accelerator program for our learners and our communities,” adds Joan Sweeney Marsh, Associate Vice President, Integrated Learning Services. “Their enthusiastic endorsement of our Canada Summer Jobs program application allowed us to employ more than 40 students.” Other contributors include the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) and Technation (formerly the Information Technology Association of Canada), RBC Future Launch and Sheridan’s own Work Study Program.

Sheridan’s Career-Integrated Learning team, in partnership with all academic faculties, is committed to many forms of work-integrated learning (WIL) including apprenticeship, field placement/experience, mandatory professional practice, internship and co-operative education. The college has provided co-op experiences to its students for more than 30 years, and more than 7,500 students annually participate in WIL. Wage subsidies and other funding supports may also be available to employers and more information can be found through the Student Work Placement program.