How Educational Institutions are responding to COVID-19

 In Intro

Colleges and universities around the world have been impacted by the consequences of COVID-19. With students adapting to online learning and graduates concerned for the future of their career paths, it is essential for institutions to pivot their objectives in order to provide value for their community of students.

Over the past few months, education, training, and job viability for new graduates have all been impacted and an area for concern for educational institutions. In Canada, post-secondary students have been a particularly vulnerable and impacted group.1 With the current economic client and a lack of job prospects, many post-secondary students may be distressed as to whether there are sufficient financial resources to support their continuing education. According to a survey conducted by Statistics Canada, out of 100,000 Canadian post-secondary students surveyed, 74% of respondents with a job faced reduced hours or layoffs, and 48% with job prospects had positions put on hold or offers rescinded due to COVID-19.2 More so,

40% of respondents are worried that in a Post-Covid-19 environment, their credentials will not be sufficient to compete for open positions as Canada faces record unemployment rates 16 losing 1.1 million jobs in March 2020 alone.3

In response to this, the Government of Canada has offered student grants and loans to full-time and part-time students to help pay for their post-secondary education.4 More specifically, the government has also announced a series of measures as part of its COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan that will help Canadian students and recent graduates. This includes:

· $80 million for the Student Work Placement Program to support up to 20,000 post-secondary students across Canada to obtain paid work experience related to their field of study.

· $40 million to Innovation, Science and Economic Development to support Mitacs in order to create 5,000 new job placements. The Business/Higher Education Roundtable (BHER) will also create a further 5,000 to 10,000 new student placements, by reorienting existing federal support and building online tools.

· $291.6 million to support up to 40,000 student researchers and post-doctoral fellows through the federal granting councils. Funding would support a one-semester extension for eligible students whose research scholarships or fellowships end between March and August 2020 and who intend to continue their studies. It would also provide a 3-month extension in funding for holders of federal research grants to support eligible trainees and staff paid out of these awards.

Though the measures put in place by the Canadian government serve as beneficial for many students and graduates, a key component of ensuring the success of post-secondary students throughout the current uncertain climate is how educational institutions are responding to the impacts of COVID-19, and working towards disseminating the information and measures that are available to students. Last month, Ryerson University introduced the Ryerson Innovation Student Experience (RISE), an 8-week virtual incubation program that supports young entrepreneurs to experience the journey of building a business in the creative industries. The eligibility requirements to apply to RISE make the program broadly available to many students, providing students and recent graduates with an entrepreneurial interest the opportunity continue to discover and develop their ideas and research.

In response to programs like RISE, students are provided with opportunities during a time where many may be struggling with understanding and forecasting their next best step. With the current uncertain economic landscape, the response from educational institutions to meet the changing needs of their community will play a large part in the successful next steps of their students.

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