Toronto Metropolitan University: New Arts co-op program bolsters experiential learning

Toronto Metropolitan University’s Faculty of Arts is introducing co-op opportunities for students in four programs

Preparing for professional success is a top priority for most university students. That’s why the Faculty of Arts and Toronto Metropolitan University’s Career Co-op & Student Success Centre have partnered to expand co-operative education to students enrolled in English, politics and governance, history and sociology. 

“Co-ops help students enrich their classroom education with practical work experience,” said Toronto Metropolitan University’s Faculty of Arts Dean Pamela Sugiman. “We’re thrilled that Arts students now have another avenue to expand their professional horizons, build their networks and gain valuable skills that will position them for success in their careers.” 

Students in co-op will gain experience in industries such as government, financial services, heritage and culture, not-for-profit and private corporations. These sectors include organizations such as IBM, banks like TD, RBC and CIBC, Apotex, Ministry of Education and Ontario Power Generation among many others. 

“Arts is such a diverse field and you can really go anywhere with that degree,” said Thoywell Hemmings, Career, Co-op & Student Success Centre’s Associate Director of career-integrated learning. “We thought it was important for students to get a sense of the different possibilities and sometimes the best way to showcase that is to give them the opportunity to work in new fields they might not have thought about.” 

The faculty prioritized creating an accessible co-op program that meets the needs of first-generation students who may not have strong networks to rely on for references and other needs. 

Additionally, Professor Mélanie Knight, advisor to the Arts dean on Blackness and Black diasporic education, and Sunny Chan, program advisor at the Career, Co-op & Student Success Centre, have been working with a newly formed Black student advisory group to address students’ fears around the school-to-work transition, possible structural barriers and mitigating strategies, representation among employers, lack of financial accessibility, social capital and acknowledgement of the daily realities of anti-Black racism. 

“Representation is important and we want to make sure that there are Black-identified employers in the co-op program, so students can imagine themselves working in the industry. This can also provide mentorship and additional support when looking for a career after graduation,” said Alicia Pinnock, a student in the advisory group.