Keeping students connected and supported during COVID-19
Last week, the Government of Canada announced a historic $9-billion student aid package to help alleviate the financial burden faced by many students who are finding their summer job prospects severely limited as a result of restrictions on businesses caused by the COVID-19 crisis. This has been one of our principal advocacy priorities and we are thrilled to see the federal government take action to help students. This financial aid means that all students will have the resources needed to continue their studies, including those among the most vulnerable when global crises disrupt the status quo.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we shared how colleges and institutes have come to the aid of medical professionals, employing applied research facilities and 3D printers to find innovative ways of meeting demand for medical equipment; and have responded to physical distancing measures by moving teaching and learning online. But colleges and institutes always have their students top of mind, and have moved quickly to make sure student supports, from academics and tutoring opportunities, to finance, well-being and mental health support would remain available despite campus closures and disruption.
Our members have made a wealth of support mechanisms available for students during this time, including resources for managing stress and anxiety, tailored approaches for Indigenous students, help in acquiring necessary equipment to complete studies virtually, and creative ways of maintaining connected communities while physically distancing. For example:
- Before government financial relief was announced, many colleges organized financial assistance and emergency relief bursaries for students, both domestic and international, and in many cases through collaboration with the institution’s student union to best meet their needs, including Coast Mountain College, Douglas College, Fleming College, Vancouver Island University, Collège André-Grasset, and more.
- In collaboration with United Way Yukon, 48 Yukon College students needing additional support received grocery gift cards to assist help meet their immediate needs, whether it’s food, medications, cleaning supplies, or clothes.
- Red River College’s Indigenous Student Supports quickly got to work ensuring that their Indigenous students were supported during this time, organizing deliveries of computers and emergency food hampers, and are also preparing traditional medicines such as sage and cedar so students can smudge at home.
- Sheridan College’s Inclusive Communities team has launched a webinar series looking specifically at ways to support Indigenous students who may be disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in their transitions to online learning.
- Saskatchewan Polytechnic students can book online video appointments with counsellors, including Indigenous counsellors and accessibility counsellors, on the institutions student wellness webpage and Learn from Home support page.
- Loyalist College is helping find accommodations in local hotels and providing funding for food and other necessities for nearly 200 international students following campus residence closures related to COVID-19.
- Working with the Montmorency Student Association (l’Association des étudiantes et des étudiants de Montmorency) Collège Montmorency was able to help low-income students obtain necessary computer equipment to allow them to continue their studies from home.
- BCIT released a new Mental Health at Home service to provide students with tips, resources and one-to-one sessions to help manage stress, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness and isolation, and adjust to learning from home.
- Conestoga College Student Engagement Services workshops, including Conversation Cafés and Transition Talks!, help students stay social connected during distancing efforts.
- Humber College’s Student Life team is ensuring that vital support services remain accessible online, including virtual counselling support and Peer-Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) that allow students to connect with peer tutors online.
- George Brown College has also moved its peer tutoring online for those needing support with English, math, accounting, and study skills, and quickly trained more than 50 peer tutors in using specialized digital tutoring platforms and interacting virtually with students.
- Collège la Cité put together a special website with resources for students adapting to distance learning, including articles on how to manage stress as courses come to an end and a webinar with tips for how to maximize the potential of online classes.
Mental health remains a vital issue for students and all Canadians alike. Just yesterday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an investment of $240.5 million to develop, expand, and launch virtual care and mental health tools to support Canadians, including investment to support the federal government’s new Wellness Together Canada website. Don’t forget to take advantage of resources made available by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Continuing business and advocacy during COVID-19
As we all continue to work together to support each other and those most vulnerable in our communities, we are pleased to share information on a few recent federal updates concerning students:
- Financial support for students: the Government of Canada announced a historic $9-billion student aid package to support students facing financial challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- For international students: Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) advises international students who are in Canada and whose temporary resident status will soon expire to apply online to extend their status before it expires.
- IRCC has also temporarily removed restrictions limiting international students to work a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session, for those working in an essential service or function.
- For Canadian and international youth participating in an experience through International Experience Canada, IRCC has shared an updatethat includes travel advisories, information on application processing, permit extensions, and mandatory isolation requirements upon entry to Canada.
We were also thrilled to host a virtual town hall with the Honorable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry who thanked members for their incredible efforts to address challenges related to COVID-19. The Minister was also joined by Will Amos, Parliamentary Secretary for Science.
Minster Bains answered questions from college and institute presidents about the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and its look ahead to recovery. Thank you to Ira Mamis, a student from Yukon College and a member of our ISAAC group, Durham College president Don Lovisa, NBCC president Mary Butler, Assiniboine Community College president Mark Frison, Lethbridge College president Paula Burns, and Saskatchewan Polytechnic president Larry Rosia for asking your questions.
Don’t forget that our COVID-19 webpage gathers all of our updates, including advocacy with the federal government and freely available teaching and learning resources. Be sure to check in often! Join our weekly webinar series for updates on our efforts in Ottawa and to share amongst yourselves how the situation is evolving in your various regions and what approaches you are taking to tackle the challenges. Join us every Friday!
Marking Conference 2020 virtually
While we missed welcoming you to the Connection Conference in Montreal, we can’t wait to see everyone next year in Calgary from April 25-27, 2021 with our hosts Bow Valley College, SAIT, and Alberta University of the Arts. Until then, we are planning exciting new initiatives to stay connected virtually!
Our annual Awards of Excellence sponsored exclusively by TD Insurance, along with the Award for Distinguished Service and Award for Outstanding Partner, will be showcased in an exciting new virtual format in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
Despite not being physically displayed, the 2020 Student Art Showcase and Contest is still on! This year, we received over 200 submissions from talented students across the country. Finalists will be selected this week, and online voting will take place from May 12 to 22.
Thanks for staying connected!
The college and institute response
As ongoing challenges in post-secondary education related to COVID-19 persist, colleges and institutes have made quick work of their incredible versatility in developing solutions. We put together a showcase of some of the responses we’ve seen in areas ranging from applied research and online learning to support for small businesses and student well-being. Share with us more of what your institution is doing!
Share your perspectives on ESDC’s Essential Skills Framework
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) is reviewing its Essential Skills Framework to ensure Canadians have the necessary skills to help them adapt, participate, and thrive in a rapidly changing labour market that is characterized by technological advancements, globalization, and diversity. We are collaborating with ESDC to ensure that colleges and institutes have an opportunity to share their perspectives!
We are hosting a virtual conference for members to share their input on how “skills for success,” identified as essential for all Canadians compare to the skills needs of your learners and local employers!
Did you know that Lambton College Social Service Worker students and staff have been busy working to ensure the health and safety of those in need, working in partnership with the Inn of the Good Shepherd? After cancelling their planned fundraiser and public awareness events due to COVID-19, the Lambton College team quickly redirected their efforts and put together a student-led Drive By Food Drive throughout Sarnia and surrounding communities!
Christina Aon was appointed director general of the CERASP at John Abbott College (Centre d’expertise et de recherche appliquée en sciences pharmaceutiques), a centre of excellence in pharmaceutical sciences. Aon will take on her new role with 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry.
Okanagan College welcomed Meri Kim Oliver as its new Vice President, Students. Oliver joins Okanagan from Durham College, where she has served as vice-president, Student Affairs since 2013.
The Justice Institute of British Columbia appointed Mike Proud as its new Vice-President, Finance & Operations. Proud joined JIBC in 2017 as Deputy Chief Financial Officer and since August 2019 has served as Interim Vice-President, Finance & Operations.
Horatio Alger Scholarships
Encourage your students to apply for the Horatio Alger Association of Canadas vocational and technical education scholarships.
Send Us Your News
One of our main goals at Colleges and Institutes Canada is to champion and share the innovations and awesomeness of our members. You can help! We want to hear about your new applied research, industry and community partnerships, international education, important financial investments and more. Add firstname.lastname@example.org to your media mailing lists! We’ll share member institution News Releases and other upcoming announcements online and with our national media contacts based in Ottawa.