This story is featured in the Fall 2016 edition of Showcase: The Experiential Learning Issue. View the complete publication.
“My internship at Kawartha Land Trust (KLT) has allowed me to apply new GIS functions and tasks that I was not using in my Masters project. I’ve gained experience and connections that will help me get a foot in the door when I go looking for work,” says Trent University M.Sc. candidate Spencer Walker.
Mr. Walker, who was one of the first participants in the CREATE Enviro program, began an internship with KLT in May 2016 involving mapping and spatial analysis using GIS. He credits the experience with expanding and diversifying his skill set.
From academia to the workforce
Launched in September 2015 with a $1.65 million grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada, the goal of CREATE Enviro is to prepare students for employment upon graduation. Designed for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows interested in environmental and biological technologies, the program provides them with practical internships and technical skills training, in addition to standard research theses.
Mr. Walker says CREATE Enviro is an example of how Trent is meeting the needs of its students: “Not every graduate student intends to pursue a career in academia, so this program will help those people to be a step ahead of other students who are competing for jobs.”
Graduate students enrolled in Trent University’s CREATE Enviro program will have a leg up in the job market when they graduate, thanks to an applied experiential approach to training that emphasizes skills development.
“We are putting much more into the training of individual students than is typically done in traditional graduate programs,” says Dr. Dennis Murray, program director, Canada research chair in integrative wildlife conservation, and a faculty member in the Biology department, in explaining what makes CREATE Enviro different. “We provide value-added components such as workshops, online courses, and internships that strategically align with each student’s area of interest, so when they graduate they are more marketable than if they had taken the traditional thesis-based route.”
Workshops and internships make students “career-ready”
“The job market in our field is very competitive, so it’s important for graduates to be career- ready,” points out Lindsey Bargelt, a first-year M.Sc. candidate in Environmental and Life Sciences. “Most graduate programs don’t prepare students with the skills they will need to be successful in the workplace, but Trent’s program does,” she adds, noting that CREATE Enviro participants are offered professional development workshops in areas such as project management.
Through a collaboration with Queen’s University and the University of Toronto, participants also have the opportunity to work with world experts in fields such as landscape genetics, conservation biology and spatial analysis.
“For students who have aspirations of working in government or industry and solving some of the big environmental problems facing society, then this program should be highly attractive to them,” adds Prof. Murray.