Students looking for a university are interested in the extraordinary – transformative opportunities they can’t find elsewhere. More and more, experiential education – work-integrated learning – is what they seek.
Earlier this month, the Government of New Brunswick announced an investment of $18.4 million to expand experiential educational opportunities for students at the province’s four public universities. The goal of this initiative is that all students in all disciplines will have an experiential learning opportunity in their undergraduate years. Our universities need to excel in this area as our colleges already do. The public post-secondary education sector – universities and colleges together – are helping to build a better, stronger New Brunswick.
In 2016, UNB along with the other public universities formed a New Brunswick-wide task force that brought them together with industry and government to explore new approaches to experiential education in our province. Providing experiences and enforcing the knowledge they have learned in the classroom increases students’ engagement and supports the development of a culture of lifelong learning. This experience translates into higher graduation rates, better rates of employment and creates engaged citizens with the qualities and experience that employers seek.
The University of New Brunswick has built a strong reputation at the heart of the province’s innovation ecosystem and as a platform for research and innovation. UNB faculty, staff, students and alumni are launching new enterprises at an astounding rate.
But we are also deeply committed to excellence in teaching and learning. We strive to build a transformational student experience, one that provides both the ideas and knowledge to understand the world around us and the skills needed to make a better society.
This is why we are committed to a UNB student experience that includes experiential education for every interested student on all three campuses in Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton.
Many of New Brunswick’s youth are choosing to leave the province because of a perceived lack of opportunity. Through experiential education, universities and colleges show students the local options available to them and foster the development of relationships between industry and students – getting their foot in the door for career opportunities once they graduate.
Our students develop marketable skills needed for their careers, including critical thinking, planning and collaboration. Data shows students who participate in these opportunities are more engaged, find careers quicker, and have stronger ties to their institutions and the province.
For our partners in industry and government, we are strengthening the future workforce and encouraging innovation and collaboration. Having experienced, confident and trained youth in our labour force will improve the quality of ideas and quality of life in New Brunswick.
Communities also see the benefits of promoting experiential education. Students participating in opportunities are contributing to economic productivity and competitiveness. This continues once they graduate and they enter the workforce with more experience and knowledge, further strengthening the economy.
As an institution, experiential education enhances our learning environment and campus community. Students bring diverse experiences back into the classroom, sharing knowledge with their fellow students and educators. Building a linkage with the community allows us to stay in touch with current needs.
Above all, the students make a significant difference in the communities they visit.
International experiences for students expose them to broader knowledge, different viewpoints, and cultural understanding. These are transferable skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
Students looking for a post-secondary institution should consider participating in experiential opportunities. They will enrich your education and your life, while growing marketable and transferrable skills you’ll need for your career.
Governments, employers and post-secondary institutions all have a role to play in enhancing and expanding opportunities for students to take part in experiential learning activities. New Brunswick universities and colleges are well positioned and committed to helping all students, including students from marginalized groups, across all disciplines, find placements. We need our communities to support this vision.
Experiential education is also an opportunity for international students studying in our province: their placements and experiences can facilitate a pathway into the workforce, making the decision – and transition – to stay in New Brunswick that much easier. We want our local and international students to stay in our province and help build our communities. Attracting and retaining international students is one of the keys to growing New Brunswick’s population and economy. Doing so requires local employers to consider opportunities for both local and international students.
Experiential education isn’t just a game-changer for students. It’s a movement that can transform our collective potential. For us here at UNB, we believe these opportunities will be important in returning New Brunswick to economic growth and prosperity.