College Finishing School for University Grads?

By Zoe Ackah, Epoch Times
March 15, 2013 10:17 am Last Updated: April 3, 2013 8:54 am

 Once thought of as places that turned out nurses, electricians, and shelves of amateur pottery, colleges are remolding themselves to meet the needs of our new economic reality.

You can still learn pottery, but now you can also add the practical touch to your impractical undergraduate degree [or antiquated career] that will make all the difference in your job search.

“I’m increasingly hearing the terms ‘finishing school for university students’,” says Humber College president Chris Whitaker.

Humber now offers over 30 post-graduate programs for university graduates who may not feel satisfied with their skills or can’t find work with their undergrad alone.

Most of these programs are one-year intensives with a very specific focus from global business management to dispute resolution.

“At Humber the focus has always been to provide career-oriented education,” says Whitaker.

Ladder to Success

Many students are opting to go straight to college, not just because it is cheaper and easier to get in, but because it is more practical and flexible.

At Humber College anyone willing to do the work can start with a simple online introductory course, work their way to a certificate, turn that in a diploma, and then finally a degree.

If you are within the same subject, this “laddering” allows programs to lead into each other, making it easier for students to upgrade their qualification without paying for credits they don’t need and wasting valuable time.

Alvina Cassiani, dean of the Humber College business school, points out that a student may be talented enough for university level studies, but be struggling with English, have to balance school and work, or be beginning as a mature student.

She sees laddering helping students “gain confidence” in their academic abilities as they succeed in more manageable steps toward goals.

As Humber’s business school began offering degrees, they have made use of the “laddering” structure.

A three-year business diploma graduate can enter the bachelor program in third year.

The ten Bachelor of Commerce degrees they offer are all built on the same 2-year platform.

Two shared years followed by two years of specialization allows students a chance to change their minds in year three with less financial loss.

Next, work study and paid internship add to your resume before you graduate…….


Working It Out

In the true spirit of a polytechnic, almost all Humber programs have some sort of work/study element.

In contrast to somewhere like Schulich, business degree students at Humber must complete a 14-week paid internship between years 3-4 in order to graduate. Yes, mandatory and paid.

That has to look good on a resume. Maintaining relevance for industry employers has become paramount when colleges are in the business of employability.

Involving the business community means that colleges like Humber must try their best to respond by quickly mount courses and changing tact in their diploma programs.

“I think colleges have a reputation for being nimble,” says Whitaker.

How quickly can they change? For Cassiani change could always be faster. “I want things to happen quickly.”

While university professors are encouraged to publish, college instructors are encouraged to work.

“One of the things I look for in the faculty we hire is their ability to manage change. We want them to have currency, relevancy,” says Cassiani.

“That’s the beauty of having faculty who come in on an adjunct basis. They teach, but they also work. That’s what the college system has really hung its hat on.”


Clothes Horse’s Mouth

The Humber website boasts that 80 percent of their graduates are working after program completion, but what are employers saying?

Connie McCulloch is the EVP of Home and Planning, Allocation & Analysis for TJX, the company that owns, HomeSense, Winners and Marshall’s.

McCulloch is part of Humber’s fashion management committee. She helps provide direction on Humber curriculum, meeting with Humber staff four times a year to give input on the curriculum.

She also helps evaluate student presentations.

“I’m very impressed with how in tune they are with retail,” says McCulloch. “When they come in to our organization their just so much better prepared.”

TJX takes a handful of paid interns from Humber each year, and hires graduates too. “We were able to recruit quite a few candidates,” says McCulloch.

We asked if Humber’s Fashion Management graduates were better prepared than university students. “For sure, because they’re very specialized.”