Use your brains… and your hands!

U of W announces partnership with Winnipeg Technical College

University of Winnipeg students will soon be able to combine their theoretical knowledge with practical, hands-on experience.

On Feb. 24, the U of W and Winnipeg Technical College (WTC) released a statement of intent to join forces to offer students a more diversified education experience.

“It makes good sense to combine these two types of learning environments so that the graduate will be a stronger grad with a broader set of skills,” said Ellen Brownstone, vice-president (academic) of Winnipeg Technical College.

Tammy Sigurdur, director of English language programs and liaison for the partnership, said it’s becoming increasingly popular for universities to partner with colleges to create a more well-rounded education.

“The trend is that you don’t need just [university] or the other [college],” she said. “Partnering is what seems to be working best for industry and for students.”

Although the details of the partnership are still being developed, Sigurdur said the main goal is to create pathways between the college system and the university system. This will allow for students from both institutions to make smooth transitions between the two and receive recognition for prior learning. Sigurdur gave the example that if a theatre student wanted to learn more about set design and construction, they could take a course in carpentry at WTC and receive credit towards their degree.

Jino Distasio, director of the Institute of Urban Studies at the U of W, envisions the partnership benefitting students in his department.

“There could be some real interesting opportunities for ... [IUS] students who are interested in housing to take a course in carpentry ... or landscape design, ” he said, adding that students from the technical college could also benefit from attending the U of W to learn more about urban systems and sustainability in a more theoretical way.

“It is an interesting reciprocal opportunity,” Distasio said.

Brownstone said the joint venture was developed to help students meet the changing demands in today’s job market.

“It is a sign of the times. We know that in Manitoba and Canada we have an acute shortage of skilled workers,” Brownstone said, adding that there is an increasing number of students coming to WTC, some of whom already have university degrees, to get a practical education that will lead to specific employment.

Based on post-graduation surveys, Brownstone said there is a 90 per cent employment rate among graduates of Winnipeg Technical College just 6 months after graduation. According to Brownstone, the diverse set of skills that graduates with experience both in university and in college possess will open up several more job opportunities at a provincial, national and even international level.

Although universities do not keep records on post-graduation employment rates, Sigurdur agreed that the combination of practical and theoretical education will no doubt increase chances of employment. According to Sigurdur, the deans from both schools will be meeting at the end of March to discuss the joint programs they wish to develop.

Sigurdur anticipated that some programs will be in place for students by the fall term of 2010.

Published in Volume 64, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 11, 2010)

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