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Employment meets speed dating at Toast to Hire Learning

Students and co-op placement employers share work term experiences over breakfast.

By Geoff Ash

The annual Toast to Hire Learning event, which brings together students, student employers and community partners to say thank you, and to spark conversations around job searching, employment and retention, took on a new format this year, and was not unlike a round of speed dating.

Hosted by Career Development and Experiential Learning (CDEL), and the Division of Co-operative Education, it provides a unique opportunity for their employer partners, explained Chris Hounsell, acting director, CDEL.

"We offer them something as a thank you that they can't get from other organizations that they are members of, and that is students' voices and students' perspectives. We wanted to offer them a chance to engage their future employees and ask them questions around recruitment and retention."

Over breakfast, representatives from the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors were treated to the unique perspective of 16 Memorial students participating in co-op work term placements and from a broad range of academic programs and backgrounds as they rotated table to table. Employers had five minutes with each student to ask questions and discuss subjects like generational conflict, job searching and job satisfaction.

And participating employers appreciated the opportunity. Sherrill Norris, human resources adviser with Husky Energy, was one of almost 100 employer representatives in attendance and said it was an extremely useful exercise.

"It was a great experience for me to engage with co-operative education and new grad students to understand their expectations when looking for jobs, and it was beneficial to hear what they look for in an employer," she said. "Husky hires 20-22 students per semester and it's important that we understand what the next generation is looking for, particularly in our changing labour market."

The benefits that employment-related programs provide to students cannot be overstated, said Dr. Peter Rans, director, Division of Co-operative Education.

"Any experiential learning program provides students with an opportunity to use their theoretical, academic knowledge in applied settings," he said.

"Co-operative education is the most advanced, sustained and systematic form of experiential education. Employers benefit hugely from the presence of co-operative education students as they get to assess the next generation of employees in real work situations before they graduate. Relationships are established that lead to employment when students graduate. Students are provided with paid opportunities to test their learning and their intended professions. Co-operative education work terms are frequently transformative and provide learning experiences students wouldn't otherwise encounter."

Event organizers, as well as attendees, were pleased with the new format, and intend to carry it over into next year's celebration.