Upskilling and reskilling are essential for success in today’s labour market. York University School of Continuing Studies supports students at every step of their journey.
The modern job market is drastically changing, and steady, linear career paths are no longer the norm. The average working-aged Canadian has up to 15 jobs over the course of their career, and changes roles about every two years. Whether climbing the next rung on the proverbial ladder or entering a new arena altogether, today’s Canadian employees find that continuous upskilling and reskilling is a prerequisite for success in nearly every field. Post-secondary institutions like York University School of Continuing Studies are responding with agile, industry-informed programs designed to support employees in today’s highly competitive and dynamic labour market.
Supporting diverse learners
“At York University School of Continuing Studies, we support both career launchers and mid-career learners including those looking to transition into a new career,” says Christine Brooks-Cappadocia, Interim Assistant Vice-President at the York University School of Continuing Studies. “Our programs balance knowledge and theory with real-world skills.”
Career launchers, whether domestically or internationally educated, are typically looking to build on their undergraduate degrees with tangible and specialized career skills and learn how to sell those skills to frontline hiring managers. Often, these students study on a full-time, accelerated basis. Meanwhile, mid-career learners — some of whom are upskilling while working in their chosen careers — draw on the School of Continuing Studies program content to supplement what they already know through years of experience. With online or blended programs and schedules designed to support work/life balance, they’re able to balance a full-time job while studying.
Blending soft and hard skills
Whether upskilling or reskilling, students learn through a cohort model designed to maximize their chances of career success. Through the cohort model, which is unique to the School of Continuing Studies Continuing Professional Education (CPE) programs — students advance through their learning objectives with a group of peers by their side. “We want students to have a network to draw on once they leave the classroom,” says Brooks-Cappadocia. Learning in a supportive, social context affords networking opportunities, enhances students’ psychological safety — which has been shown to improve learning — and helps students to build the crucial soft skills that employers look for, like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. To that end, the School of Continuing Studies also builds work-integrated learning experiences into the curriculum.
Giving students an edge
Work-integrated learning is designed to help students build on theory with as close to a real-life workplace situation as possible. Here, students embark on real work projects for companies, government agencies, non-profits, and other organizations. These real work projects are incorporated into the curriculum.
The Digital and Content Marketing program enables students to build a unique digital marketing campaign. As part of their learning experience, students are tasked to write captivating blog content and generate engagement through e-mail and organic social media channels. Students are also provided with hands-on experience utilizing HubSpot, which provides comprehensive marketing campaign analytics, enabling a seamlessly integrated learning experience. “Our students can confidently say, ‘Not only do I know this, but I’ve applied it,’” says Brooks-Cappadocia. Students emerge with a well-rounded skill set they can advertise to a potential employer — or if they’re upskilling in place, with a solid foundation to convince their manager they’ve learned new things and should be considered for a promotion.
Interim Assistant Vice-President at York University School of Continuing Studies
Mediaplanet sat down with Christine Brooks-Cappadocia, Interim Assistant Vice-President at the York University School of Continuing Studies, to learn more about the benefits of York’s continuing education programs, her advice for recently laid-off workers, and more.
How do you ensure that York University School of Continuing Studies programs teach skills that are relevant to a constantly shifting labour market?
We develop all of our programs in consultation with industry experts, including some of Canada’s largest employers. We spend time with industry partners to get to know what their goals are. Additionally, our programs are developed in partnership with senior industry leaders with our instructors working for Canada’s top employers.
Why does York University School of Continuing Studies require students to commit to a program, rather than go course by course?
Students tend to graduate with the complete credential more consistently in our programs than they do in a course-by-course model. Our graduation rates are in the 90th percentile. It also allows us to make sure students have achieved all the learning outcomes they need to be successful in the workplace and that they’ve developed a strong network of students and instructors. Learning is very social, and you need to provide that network for optimal outcomes.
What advice would you give a recently laid-off worker?
If you’ve been laid off, you want to get your next job fairly quickly, as well as signal to hiring managers that you have an up-to-date skill set. To that end, we offer the same comprehensive programs available to mid-career learners in an intensive format for people able to study full-time. These programs are delivered in less than 11 weeks. We’ve actually found that intensive delivery really helps with knowledge retention. I also encourage students to take advantage of our full suite of career services and to network with both instructors and fellow students, building contacts that may help them land that next role in the hidden job market.
How can employers benefit from York University School of Continuing Studies programs?
Both larger, national-scale and smaller employers regularly send groups of employees through our programs, whether public or privately delivered. Students study for seven weeks online and come together for blended-weekend blocks, which are sometimes delivered through regional partner universities across the country. In this way, national employers benefit from consistent training across their workforce.
How do you think the learning experience has evolved and will continue to evolve in the post-pandemic world?
We’re all talking about microcredentials now, and while that’s great for a specific skill, they’re not for everyone in every situation. Students need time to learn and breathing space to reflect and apply their practical skills. If it’s a new skill set as opposed to a single discrete skill, we need to give learners a well-thought-out, carefully curated set of learning tools. For instance, no one program can teach the data technologies that will be in use five years from now, but we teach students how to learn the next big thing when it comes along.
Learn more about York’s School of Continuing Studies.