College grads today need skills beyond what’s taught in the classroom to make it in the new economy, a problem Centennial College is trying to address — starting with its inaugural Industry Night held Nov. 12 to encourage industry professionals to shape the 26 programs at its Story Arts Centre on Carlaw Avenue.
“The relationship between the school and the field needs to be blurred,” College president Ann Buller said in an interview about bridging the gap between industry and institution.
“This is not your mother’s college,” Buller said in her speech referring to how now college isn’t about preparing grads for a job, but giving them the entrepreneurial skills to create their careers.
“Tonight’s event is about saying ‘Thank you and let’s keep going,’” she said.
Many of the professionals who attended are already involved with the college through program advisory committees (PACs). Chris Maheras, a recruiter at Gameloft, a mobile game developer, sits on a PAC and says Centennial grads are “pretty high up” when it comes time to hire.
“The college teaches students skills like art but also prepares them for working full-time. Gaming can be a frustrating industry if you don’t understand the pipeline of how a game is made,” he said.
Jennifer Smith, who chairs the PAC for the book and magazine program and worked for publishing company Wiley Canada, said Wiley has an affinity for Centennial grads.
“For the last few years we haven’t hired anyone who didn’t graduate from Centennial. We hire the placement students that come through almost unequivocally and exclusively,” she said.
Smith said during the last PAC meeting one of the salient concerns was the changing workforce.
“There isn’t an expectation of a cradle to grave job anymore. People place importance on more than their jobs now so they choose to freelance,” Smith said.
“We encourage the students to network because every engagement is an opportunity.”
Danielle Staring and Tiina Vilu, two book and magazine publishing students said they are encouraged by the faculty to go to events like the Giller Light Bash and the Word on the Street festival.
“But we prefer the one-on-one with guest speakers in class. It’s less intimidating,” Staring said.
Last night also celebrated the launch of ACCEL (Accelerator for Centennial Community Entrepreneurs and Leaders).
“There’s been a groundswell of demand from this generation for this kind of program. They see their lives through a different lens, they intend to have dynamic careers,” Martin Croteau at the Ontario Centre of Excellence said.
He worked with Jennifer McIlroy at Centennial to create the centre.
“It’s a place to put the theory of entrepreneurship into practice. With a commitment of 10-15 hours per week we can go from idea to launch in 90 days,” McIlroy said.
So far they’ve coached 10 students from the Story Arts campus.
Karla Padilla, a recruiter at Cossette, a marketing and communications agency was disappointed that more students weren’t at last night’s event.
“We’ve hired Centennial grads as account managers before. I’m here to find people,” Padilla said.
The dean of the school of communications, media and design Nate Horowitz puts the absence of students down to lack of space.
“We wanted the professionals to come to this campus and see the amazing stuff the students do. We just didn’t have the capacity for the students to be here as well,” he said.
“It’s all for the students though. We hope this will prompt the professionals to invite students to tour their agencies and come back as guest speakers. This is just the beginning of our relationship.”