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Employers team up with university to give students valuable hands-on work experience


Internships, co-operative work placements, or ‘co-op programs’ for short, have long been a fixture of college and university programs across Canada. 

This is especially true in professional diploma programs that are designed to provide specific job-related knowledge and training.

The University of Winnipeg is one of the few universities in Canada to offer professional diploma programs. Offered through its division of Professional, Applied and Continuing Education (PACE), these programs are more typically offered through Canadian colleges, but the University of Winnipeg has been offering such programs for many years.

Business programs like Project Management, Human Resources, Financial Services, and Public Relations can deliver focused career training and, in some cases, industry-recognized professional certification. 

Technology programs include Network Security and Internet Systems specializations and produce graduates with the certifications and skills required to fill needs in the Canadian economy.

For many international students and other newcomers to Canada, these kinds of professional programs have played a big part in their transition to Canada and to the Canadian workplace.

Employers can also benefit. At Winnipeg-based Great-West Life (GWL), a leading Canadian insurer offering a broad portfolio of financial and benefit plan solutions, Human Resources students from the University of Winnipeg have been actively engaged in internships this year.

GWL described the internship program as an opportunity for both parties to learn. “With roots outside of Canada and a diverse array of personal and professional experience, the three diploma graduates were just as eager to gain some hands-on experience among HR professionals as the company was to learn from them.”

Three of those students were Chinecherem (“Chi”) Eke, Renuka Thackar and Vrunda Shashikumar. They completed their internships this summer after they completed their HR Management Diploma.

“This placement is not only outstanding for the hands-on learning the interns can receive, our company and our people can really benefit from the new perspectives they can bring to us,” says Laurel Breault, Director of HR, who secured the opportunity in conjunction with the University of Winnipeg’s Human Resources Management Program. 

Renuka was an elementary teacher in her home country of India and in Kuwait. When she moved to Canada in 2004 and started planning her career, Renuka says HR held strong appeal. 

“Human Resources has a wide umbrella under which I can grow,” she says. “It’s been great to be placed with a top company with a strong sense of community like Great-West Life.”
Vrunda spent 18 years in financial services management in Mumbai, India, and Dubai, UAE. Her professional experience touched on employee relations and gave her a window into human resources. She says the internship with Great-West adds to that experience and her classroom learning. 

“Connecting these University of Winnipeg graduates with learning and development opportunities within our organization is one way we are remaining community-minded and a good corporate citizen, says Breault. 

“Our interns have opened us up to new points of view; we’re coaching them and offering a meaningful experience, but also learning so much from them.”

Another employer, the Winnipeg Airport Authority was similarly proud to host University of Winnipeg internship students this summer. 

“This summer WAA welcomed two interns from the University of Winnipeg Professional, Applied and Continuing Education (PACE). Both interns recently completed their studies in the full-time Project Management Diploma Program, which provides students with essential project management tools for budgeting, procuring, scoping, modelling, measuring, and reporting in today’s business world.”

WAA reported that Charles Osondu worked on a variety of projects with their engineering department as well the Airport Site Redevelopment team. 

They noted that Charles recently emigrated from Ghana where he was working in real estate property development. 

“Charles enjoyed the Project Management Program because of the experienced instructors and the many opportunities the class was given to work in groups.”

Illustrating the wide range of work opportunities for Project Management program graduates, WAA reported that Narinder Kaur worked on projects in the finance department as well as the security and airside safety department. 

Narinder is an international student from Delhi, where she had been working in the engineering and IT fields. 

They noted that “Narinder appreciated the Project Management Program because she had the opportunity to hear from some of the industry’s top professionals and she developed friendships with many of her classmates. 

“Over the years WAA has partnered with local educational institutions on mentoring and providing valuable work experience to students through internships and summer student positions. It’s a great way for us to give back to our community and help shape tomorrow’s leaders. We benefit by getting assistance on some important assignments and hearing fresh perspectives and ideas from the students. 

“It’s a win-win!” 
                                                                                                                                                            – Jason Brennan

Posted: Oct 2, 2013

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