Bushra Habib & 

Ruth Tshikonde

Silhouette Staff & The Silhouette

 

The Globe and Mail featured McMaster’s approach to education in an Oct. 24 article, examining correlations between an undergraduate education and the quality of jobs graduates could obtain.

The recent recession resulted in the creation of over 300,000 new jobs for those possessing an undergraduate degree, however, over 430,000 individuals lacking post secondary education lost their jobs.

“A piece of paper does not get you a job,” expressed Kathryn Hryb, a Career Consultant at McMaster’s new Student Success Center (SSC). “Rather, it is you as an individual who gets yourself the job. Students have to actually put in that extra effort on the side and understand that having a degree itself doesn’t always get you a job or one that they will truly be satisfied with.”

Universities are facing constant pressure from students and their families to improve the educational experience and the value of a university degree by increasing other opportunities for students to develop skills and increase their marketability.

Such avenues for gaining an edge in the job hunt include co-operative education placements, internships and formal records recognizing volunteering activities and extracurricular involvement.

Making a university education a worthwhile and beneficial experience has important financial implications for graduating students,who have invested time, effort and money into their degree.

A 2008 Statistics Canada report showed that Canadian undergraduates earned 70 per cent more than those with only a secondary education or experience in the trades.

In 2009, it was reported that 82 per cent of adults between ages 25 and 64 with a diploma or degree were employed, whereas those who had not completed their secondary education had an employment rate of merely 55 per cent.

“The employers value a student’s credentials, yet they also value a student that is able to bring more than just basic knowledge,” said Jacquie Hamsphire, the Event and Marketing Coordinator at the SSC.

Hamsphire further explained, “they want people with experience and who bring skills to the table in order to expand their companies.”

The Globe and Mail article found that McMaster, among others, including the University of Alberta, was measuring up well to these growing expectations to prepare graduates.

This progress is partly due to its focus on experiential learning. Experiential learning allows students to gain valuable experience that supplements their academic pursuits through avenues including involvement in research.

“Innovations like experiential learning truly help students build the skills that the workforce is asking for,” said Hamsphire. “It enables them to gain confidence on making the right decision as to whether the career path they are choosing is truly for them.”

“It gives students the opportunity to experience the career path they want to follow on a hands-on basis through things such as the job shadowing program, which begins in November,” added Hryb. “We have found that many students have gained summer job opportunities, internships or even have just learned what they like and dislike.

These programs are offered for students from any faculty at the school, so there is something for everyone.”

While McMaster experienced a drastic increase in first-year enrollment this year, other universities reported similar trends, with Ontario universities accepting a record breaking 90,0000 students in September, putting additional strain on universities to adapt and accommodate an increasing number of students.

The Student Success Center offers networking opportunities, orientation programs to first-year students, workshops on academic skills and chances to get involved with extracurricular community service activities.

Communication skills, the ability to work with a team and adaptability are some skills that are currently in high demand in the workforce, according to Hryb and Hampshire.

Ruth Tshikonde

The Silhouette

On Tuesday, Oct. 12 McMaster hosted a conference entitled “Stop Stealing our Steel: The Struggle of the Steelworkers”.

The conference, organized by McMaster’s Labour Studies Student Association, and sponsored by OPIRG, began with an introduction by Brendan Sweeney, from the Department of Labour Studies. Sweeney explained the importance of labour studies in today’s dynamic society.

The brief introduction was followed by a thought-provoking speech by Lisa Nussey, spokesperson and volunteer for “Hamilton for Steel”.

Nussey gave the audience a brief introduction to well-known controversy between the owners and employees of US Steel.

Nussey proceeded to discuss the controversy that had erupted when the owners of the Hamilton based factory, Stelco, now known as US Steel, had breached their part of the agreement when the company was sold to them under the Investment Canada Act.

She explained that owners of US Steel wanted a two-tiered pension plan, yet the employees were not willing to settle for it, this thus led to ongoing negotiation between both parties.

Nussey also spoke about the “Hamilton For Steel Association,” about which she explained, “everybody’s fight on the issue of standard of living in our country.”

She further stated that through the years they had been able to accomplish many things in order to show support for the Hamilton steel workers and their families with initiatives such as the Billboard Project.

The Billboard Project granted permission for four billboards to be posted throughout City of Hamilton in order to raise awareness for the issue plaguing the lives of those impacted by the demise of the steel industry.

The meeting was followed by a brief viewing of the documentary entitled “Defying the Law,” which took the viewers back through the events and issues of that particularly hot summer in Hamilton when everything erupted. It also showed the dynamics of our current economic, social and labor challenges for the steel industry.

The evening was concluded with a brief question and answer session, at which time it was established that fighting for the steel worker is a key issue that should not be left until all is fair for the workers, their families and anyone else who is an affected by this issue.

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