Real-World Community-Based Learning Initiatives Creating Career-Ready Graduates

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Nadia ter Stege has been studying business at St. Lawrence College for just one year, yet she’s already practising many of the real-world, career-ready skills that are so highly prized by today’s Employers.

As General Manager of Enactus SLC, a student-run enterprise that enables students to translate classroom learning into community-based projects, Ms. ter Stege manages a full-time team of a dozen students and more than 30 intermittent student volunteers, all of whom are gaining invaluable vocational skills.

“This is not just volunteer work; this is absolutely a job in which we are learning project management, strategy, leadership, teamwork, media relations, fundraising, written and verbal interpersonal communication skills, and budgeting and financial skills,” says Ms. ter Stege, one of Enactus SLC’s two student leaders.

Indeed, it would be hard for any employer to say that Ms. ter Stege and her team members lack the key employability skills required in business.

Enactus SLC identifies opportunities in the community and provides solutions for social, economic, and environmental issues. Its student members ran 16 community projects over the 2016–17 school year. These ranged from food and winter clothing drives for the disadvantaged and financial literacy programs for crown ward children and federal inmates to a college leadership conference, a Syrian newcomer public transit orientation, and a slowcooker culinary education program for primary school students.

Previous projects involved students from programs across the college, says Dan Hendry, Manager, Community Based Learning and Innovation, under which Enactus SLC operates. Enactus SLC’s student members have come from the Civil Engineering Technology, Culinary Management, Energy Systems Engineering, Human Resources, Marketing, Accounting, Bachelor of Business Administration, and Business Fundamentals programs.

One such impactful, ongoing project is Slow Cookers for Kids. Developed and financed through business student fundraising efforts, it started with a healthy-foods education session in the village of Sharbot Lake led by a culinary student who showed a group of primary school students how to use a slow cooker. Each child took home a slow cooker donated by local businesses. Since then, the project has visited other local classrooms, and a total of 400 slow cookers have been given away— all financed through Enactus SLC’s fundraising efforts.

Another impactful project took place last December: Enactus SLC ran a transition orientation seminar in collaboration with Kingston Transit at the behest of Kingston Immigration Partnership. It taught Syrian newcomers how to navigate Kingston by bus and how to access financial aid for transit. The session, delivered to 58 Syrians, was facilitated in Arabic and involved a narrated tour in a loaned city bus. Participants also received free bus passes.

Enactus SLC is just one enterprise running under the SLC Community-Based Learning Initiative banner. Another growing initiative is SPARK, a student-staffed marketing agency run by St. Lawrence College grads. Since opening in 2014, SPARK has continued to grow and is well versed in delivering industry standard, quality marketing solutions to the wider community and internal college departments. SPARK currently employs students as copywriters, graphic designers, videographers, project coordinators, office administrators and marketing coordinators.

“Our educational objectives are for students to develop their critical thinking, project management, and time-management skills—we’re trying to focus on things that will better prepare students for whatever path they choose,” says Mr. Hendry.

“The strategy is working,” he says. “I see a lot of our graduates getting meaningful work quicker in areas that they want to work in because they have made connections here at St. Lawrence College and they’ve built relationships while working on projects that were needed in the community.”

For more information, visit stlawrencecollege.ca