Not Just A Job: From Work Study to Career Boost
As the cost of a post-secondary education in Ontario rises, more and more of our students are choosing to work during their studies to help pay for the costs associated with pursuing their degree and living in the GTA. Rather than just serve as a means to make money, we’ve transformed our on-campus student staff positions to be more than ‘just a job,’ but also provide students with valuable career development opportunities and ultimately help them land their dream job after graduation.
Ryerson’s Career Boost (formerly known as the Work-Study program) specializes in providing students with on-campus paid employment opportunities that enhance their co-curricular experience, build their professional portfolios, and support their long-term career goals.
The benefits of Career Boost are not just felt by our students, but also by our staff. The program provides University staff with an opportunity to incorporate student talent into their team, and thereby build a stronger Ryerson community shaped by our own students’ involvement on campus. Many of our staff will be supervising students for the very first time and we’ve developed a series of tools designed to not only support their student’s career development, but also their own as supervisors and mentors.
Partially funded by the Government of Ontario, when the Work-Study program first launched at Ryerson in 1996 it consisted of just 45 on-campus jobs. Since then, the number of jobs on campus has grown exponentially. Over this past year, the program has created close to 900 positions (over 700 part-time and 150 full-time) all across campus.
In 2012, the Government of Ontario redirected funding for university work-study programs to new student financial assistance programs. Despite this loss of government funding, the Ryerson Career Centre continued to offer the same level of high-impact, on-campus job opportunities to students. No longer tied to a government program, over the past few months we’ve seized the opportunity to tailor this work experience program into one that is uniquely Ryerson.
Updating Our Wardrobe
We’d long suspected that the Work-Study brand could use a refresh to better reflect the program’s offerings and to get students excited about the prospect of working for Ryerson. To inform our rebrand, we held a series of focus groups with current Work-Study students in Fall 2015 to get their take on the program’s brand and their motivation for participating in the program. Overwhelmingly, our focus group participants expressed concerns with the name ‘Work-Study,’ noting that it didn’t accurately capture the spirit of the program, and in fact suggested that a student’s on-campus job would be connected to their academics.
Feedback in hand, we worked with the Ryerson Student Affairs Creative Team to come up with a new name and marketing strategy. Many brainstorming sessions later, we had a name and narrative—Career Boost: Ryerson’s Student Employment Source had officially been born.
Inspiration for the look and feel of the new brand came from one of the Career Centre’s own Career Boost students, Lavinia Tanzim. A Creative Industries student from the Faculty of Communication & Design, Lavinia was able to apply her in-the-classroom learning to inform Career Boost’s new design and marketing campaign. As a current student, Lavinia understood what resonates with her peers, and her design and marketing vision has formed the crux of our cross-campus marketing campaign, appearing on posters, social media, and screens all over campus.
Make it Work (Even Better)
Not merely a cosmetic makeover, we’ve made a number of significant changes to the content and offerings of the Career Boost program to best prepare students for life after Ryerson. With an emphasis on skill articulation (including those learned in the classroom, as well as on the job), mentorship, and professional development, we’re excited to help Career Boost students hone their skills and gain a competitive edge in today’s challenging labour market.
Skill and knowledge articulation can be challenging, especially for young adults applying for their first job after university. This year, all Career Boost job postings include learning outcomes in their job descriptions, ensuring students know exactly what skills and competencies they’ll gain working for Ryerson.
Beginning this summer, all Career Boost students will also participate in a new student staff development program called Career Checkpoint. Piloted with 110 students and their supervisors over the past year, Career Checkpoint has been designed to help students translate the skills and knowledge they’ve gained working at Ryerson to their future career and education goals. Supervisors are provided with a series of tools and templates enabling them to create personalized development plans for each Career Boost student. Almost 900 students will have regular, structured conversations with their supervisors regarding their professional development, personal growth, and learning outcomes.
Based on feedback we’ve received from employers via a series of surveys and focus groups, we’ll be holding our first cross-campus induction day for all Career Boost students beginning this May. Not only will our induction program ensure all Career Boost students have a baseline understanding of concepts like office etiquette, equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), and career planning to name just a few, students will have an opportunity to meet other Career Boost participants and build their professional networks.
So what’s next for Career Boost? With the formal launch of the program this May, we’ll be using the next year to refine and improve the program’s offerings based on student and supervisor feedback. We’ll also be conducting a small pilot of off-campus Career Boost job opportunities this summer, working with external employers to ensure that students receive the same high calibre of personal and professional development available via our on-campus positions.
Here at the Ryerson Career Centre we consider ourselves to be more than just University staff—we’re career educators. A student’s learning is not confined to the walls of a classroom and we’ve redesigned our on-campus job offerings to better support a student’s career development. By moving from Work-Study to Career Boost, we’ve ensured that learning and skill development has been built into something students are already doing here at Ryerson—working on campus.