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Pandemic need spurred innovative internships: 2021 teams recognized for outstanding community collaboration on wicked problems

Aug 16, 2021

Sheridan recognized eight winning teams of co-op and internship students for the innovative ideas they developed as part of the college’s Virtual Internship Program (VIP) - Innovation Accelerator stream. 165 participants attended the event from Canada, China, Colombia, Ghana, Pakistan, and the United States.

Launched in summer 2020 in response to the difficulty in securing co-ops and internships in the early days of the pandemic, the Virtual Internship Program gives Sheridan degree students an alternative to a traditional internship during the pandemic. The innovative concept was borne out of the need of the pandemic, but has become an exciting, entrepreneurial way for participants to earn their work-term credit. It offers flexibility, demands collaboration and provides students with a real-world, meaningful learning experience.

In the Innovation Accelerator stream, small interdisciplinary teams are matched with a community collaborator and work over ten weeks to propose a creative solution to the collaborator’s real-world, problem. Each collaborator then selects the project that best responds to their challenge as the winner. The 2021 Innovation Accelerator saw Sheridan teams tackle issues such as the job search for people living with disabilities, mentorship, training for at-risk youth, food insecurity, and more.

The 2021 cohort saw double the number of community collaborators, and a more diverse range of sectors represented. The number of student participants grew from 104 in 2020, to 160 in 2021.

“The VIP-IA stream continues to represent the best of Sheridan’s agility, creativity and resilience, and we’re very proud of how far our program has come in just one year,” says Dr. Matt Rempel, Director of Career-Integrated Learning at Sheridan. “With the immense changes taking shape in the world of work as we emerge from the pandemic, we’re excited by the role that the VIP will undoubtedly continue to play in Sheridan’s future career-integrated learning offerings.”

“The payoff for our students, collaborators and community engaged in the VIP-IA has been immeasurable,” adds Joan Sweeney Marsh, Associate Vice Provost, Academic and Career Learning Resources. “In the midst of a challenging labour market that has seen a significant reduction in co-op employment options, the Innovation Accelerator has enabled student participants to earn an employment wage while problem-solving with interdisciplinary teams of peers and learning new skills.”

The VIP Innovation Accelerator is funded in part through the federal Canada Summer Jobs program, with additional funds from Sheridan.

The full list of community collaborators and their selected winning teams and project ideas is below.

1. Abilities to Work

Challenge statement: How might we raise awareness of varying disabilities amongst small business owners?
Winning team: The Demolition Team (Game Design, Finance, Mobile Computing, Interior Design and Craft and Design – Textiles students).
Winning project idea: The Stronger Together social platform helps users who live with disabilities easily access job postings, information about accessibility options and more, and encourage open discussion with employers regarding potential opportunities and inclusion strategies.

2. Black Mentorship Inc

Challenge statement: How might we develop strategies to identify and recruit quality mentors to fulfill our vision?
Winning team: The Inclusive Team (Early Childhood Leadership, Information Systems Security, Accounting, and Mobile Computing students)
Winning project idea: The BMI app, a mentorship hub which helps mentors and mentees move beyond the traditional one-to-one communication model.

3. Canadian Council on Africa

Challenge statement: How might we re-envision the tradeshow/conference experience online to find ways in which Canadians and Africans can connect to do business?
Winning team: JASS (Game Design, Interaction Design, Accounting and Mobile Computing students)
Winning project idea: V-CCA, a service that allows Canadians and Africans to conduct business and trade within a secure virtual environment.

4. Canadian Film Fest

Challenge statement: How might we re-envision the future of film fest festivals in Canada to elevate the Canadian Film Fest’s national presence?
Winning team: CFF Cribz (Interaction Design, Animation, Mobile Computing, Finance and Game Design students)
Winning project idea: A revamped CFF website that includes a virtual venue, video-on-demand, Masterclasses and a regularly updated movie schedule.

5. Covenant House Toronto

Challenge statement: How might we develop training programs for youth at risk so that they can launch their careers within industries that have been resilient amidst the pandemic?
Winning team: Team Aftershocks (Early Childhood Leadership, Interaction Design, Accounting, and Photography students)
Winning project idea: Building Block, an eight-week training program that supports the development of transferrable skills to help youth find employment in a variety of industries.

6. Food For Life

Challenge statement: How might we provide our community with customized access to fresh foods in the Greater Toronto Area?
Winning team: The Neighbours (Human Resources, Information Systems Security, Film and Television, Finance and Early Childhood Leadership students)
Winning project idea: FoodUChoose is a digital service for people to customize their food orders from the Food For Life food drive. It is specially designed to accommodate those with language barriers, dietary restrictions, and helps volunteers efficiently prepare and distribute customized food packages.

7. HummingbirdHill Homes

Challenge statement: How might we engage the next generation of trades people and find meaningful ways for women to consider construction as a career?
Winning team: Sandbox Solutions (Information Systems Security, Industrial Design, Finance and Interaction Design students)
Winning project idea: The proposed FindAConstructionJob.ca site will bridge the gap between career paths and apprenticeship information for skilled workers, while providing a tailored user experience.

8. Links2Care

Challenge statement: How might we plan for and deliver various services to isolated seniors in the community?
Winning team: Team Tack (Early Childhood Leadership, Mobile Computing, Game Design, and Accounting students)
Winning project idea idea: An out-of-home marketing campaign using various physical media in high traffic areas in the community such as retail locations and places of worship to reach the target audience for Links2Care.

Sheridan’s Virtual Internship Program was developed by the college’s Career-Integrated Learning department with leading curriculum and program expertise from the Faculty of Animation, Art and Design. The 2020 VIP-IA program was also developed by and run in partnership with Sheridan’s Entrepreneurship Discovery and Growth Engine (EDGE) hub. The Virtual Internship Program was recognized with a Program Excellence Award by Colleges and Institutes Canada in April 2021.

Learn more about the VIP Innovation Accelerator.

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