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Sheridan Community Celebrates Virtual Internship Program

Aug 28, 2020
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Sheridan College’s inaugural Virtual Internship Program (VIP), an initiative quickly created in response to challenges surrounding work-integrated learning opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic, officially concluded last week with a virtual celebration attended by local Members of Parliament, community partners and Sheridan staff and students.

Developed by the college’s Career-Integrated Learning (CIL) department in collaboration with Sheridan’s Faculty of Animation, Arts and Design (FAAD) and Entrepreneurship Discovery and Growth Engine (EDGE) hub, the VIP provided Sheridan’s degree students with various remote and virtual internship opportunities, helped community partners resolve pandemic-related issues, and was a key contributor towards a total of nearly 250 paid internship positions created by the college this summer.

“This VIP has been the realization of Sheridan’s mandate at its best: the fostering of creativity, collaboration and agility,” said Carol Altilia, Vice-President, Student Experience and Enrolment Management. “It also demonstrates our commitment to community partnership through engagement with social and community agencies and collaboration with employers. These are all critical relationships in which Sheridan endeavours to contribute meaningfully to both the economic and social development of the Oakville, Mississauga and Brampton communities in which our campuses reside.”

In addition to recognizing employers, community partners and government programs, the VIP virtual celebration also showcased the work done by students in the VIP’s unique Innovation Accelerator stream — which engaged students in a facilitated 10-week interdisciplinary project to develop solutions to pandemic-related challenges faced by one of the VIP’s four community collaborators. Challenges included:

• 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.

• Assisting the educational arm of one of the world’s largest technology companies in its efforts to maintain and improve the emotional, personal and social connections between educators and young learners (13 and under) throughout the pandemic.

• Helping the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research enhance older citizens’ access to and engagement in creative and performing arts through the use of innovative technologies.

• Furthering Sheridan’s Galvanizing Education Task Force’s efforts to re-envision and design implementable and innovative ways in which higher-education experiences are delivered, both now and in the future.

Top student team proposals for each challenge were selected and announced by the VIP’s community collaborators. Winning proposals included ‘Unlock’, an array of refrigerated lockers located near various public transit access points that could be opened physically, verbally or digitally; ‘Classmate’, a Zoom plug-in that allows for more personalized communication between educators and young students; ‘Muse’, a free online resource designed for family members and caregivers of all ages to support older citizens’ virtual engagement with multiple art forms; and ‘School Coach’, an app that provides students with access to their own activity patterns and guides them towards improving their academic performance, time management and mental health.

“What really amazed me was the depth of caring that led to the students going one step beyond,” said Food for Life Executive Director Graham Hill, noting that ‘Unlock’ integrates research and technology in a way that can also be used after the pandemic as a long-term, sustainable solution. “Kudos to the faculty at Sheridan for inspiring that love of learning and the desire to ask questions and not be afraid to push the envelope, because that is what will make our society better.”

Other notable supporters of the VIP included the Canada Summer Jobs program, RBC Future Launch, the Information and Communications Technology Council, Technation (formerly the Information Technology Association of Canada) and Sheridan’s internal Work Study Program. Local Members of Parliament Anita Anand (Oakville), Sonia Sidhu (Brampton South) and Omar Alghabra (Mississauga Centre) were recognized for their support of Sheridan’s application for Canada Summer Jobs funding and delivered virtual remarks. RBC was represented by Tom Parisi, Regional Vice-President, Mississauga Market.

“Sheridan is truly grateful to our local MPs for championing this program, to the team from RBC Future Launch for their generous funding, to our community collaborators for dedicating their time and expertise to our learners, and to our professors and administrators for pivoting so quickly to ensure our students received such a meaningful, valuable and memorable learning experience,” said Sheridan President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Janet Morrison. “I have been awed by the resilience and dedication our students have demonstrated in applying their creativity, expertise and empathy to help provide solutions to real challenges during this global time of crisis. The perspectives they’ve shared with us will inform and inspire the ways we offer alternative internships in the future, even in a post-pandemic world.”

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. More information on the development and features of Sheridan’s Virtual Internship Program can be found here.

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