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Queen’s works to increase internship access for underrepresented students

A campus-wide collaboration has developed a selection of innovative learning tools aimed at encouraging internships for underrepresented students across Ontario.

The “Modular Supports for Underrepresented Individuals to Access Internships and Work Integrated Learning” project was funded by the provincial eCampus Virtual Learning Strategy (VLS).

It has resulted in modules, focused on knowledge and how to seek out supports, honing skills and critical reflection, that can be strategically integrated into experiential learning courses and relevant programs across Ontario to improve equitable access and inclusivity. The goal is to empower individuals, addressing barriers that underrepresented students may face when engaged in a work-integrated learning experience.

“We all know that equitable access and opportunity for all is key to a thriving workforce. This eCampus project provided an opportunity to collaborate and design resources that students could easily access and apply, equipping them with knowledge and tools. This is the kind of resource that would have been empowering when I was a young engineering student,” says Chelsea Elliott, Director of Corporate Relations in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

This identified need to increase equitable access and inclusivity for all learners to engage in Work Integrated Learning across Ontario, led the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, in partnership with the Faculty of Arts and Science, and Career Services, to seek funding from the eCampus Virtual Learning Strategy (VLS). Human Rights and Equity Office, Queen’s Student Accessibility Services, and external partners also lent their expertise.

“These modules provide students with knowledge and skills to understand their rights as employees and to assess whether their internship places are inclusive environments. We hope that with these modules, students identify where to go should they need support when it comes to harassment, discrimination or bias incidents. Empowered students, enabled by inclusive workplaces, have the ability to contribute greatly to the workforce and make lasting impacts in their different fields”, says Vanessa Yzaguirre, Equity Advisor with the Human Rights and Equity Office.

The modules were designed to be micro-modularized, so they can be integrated across any internship or work integrated learning program in Ontario. The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, as well as the Faculty of Arts and Science, the Queen’s Undergraduate Internship Program, and the Experiential Learning Hub in Career Services will use these resources in combination with advising and Experiential Learning experiences to enhance inclusivity at all stages of a work integrated experience.

“The EL Hub is excited to share these new online resources across our network at Queen’s. They are an incredibly valuable tool that can be easily integrated into existing or new work-integrated learning courses by simply adding the module links to an OnQ course.  With this ease of access, instructors can feel confident that they are providing underrepresented students with relevant and engaging learning materials that will support them both in preparing for work-integrated learning opportunities, as well as managing specific challenges they might encounter during the experience,” says Katie Fizzell, Experiential Learning Strategist, Career Services.

“We will be integrating the modules into every element of the Queen’s Undergraduate Internship Program (QUIP), such as workshops and pre-departure sessions,” says Tara Poole, Manager, QUIP. “They will be available to students on the QUIP OnQ course and the internship team will use them as a tool in advising registrants, outgoing and current interns.”

The module topics include: Assessing Employer Commitment to Equity and Inclusion, Navigating Disclosure, Requesting Accommodation, Know Your Rights: Understanding Your Rights as a Work-integrated Learning Student in the Workplace, Microaggressions, Conflict Resolution and Challenging Conversations, Understanding and Responding to Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Violence in the Workplace.

The VLS initiative was announced in December 2020 as a $50 million investment by the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities intended to drive growth and advancement in virtual learning across the province’s post-secondary institutions.

eCampusOntario is a provincially-funded non-profit organization that leads a consortium of the province’s 48 publicly-funded colleges, universities, and Indigenous institutes to develop and test online learning tools to advance the use of education technology and digital learning environments.

To learn more about the modules, contact el.hub@queensu.ca.