Student skills shafted by curricula

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By Uhanthaen Ravilojan

After scrolling through job postings, Gabilan Subramanian felt exasperated.

“Employers mention all these programs that I’ve never heard of before,” said the business management graduate. “In almost every single job description, there’s something I don’t have.”

Subramanian is not the only student out of the Ted Rogers School of Management (TRSM) to face this issue. Many economic and marketing-based jobs now require applicants to be proficient in a staggering range of programming languages and software. Students are frustrated that skills, such as proficiency in multiple coding languages, which are needed to find employment, are not included in their curriculum.  

“These courses cost money, and we pay for an education so we can have a future that includes well-paying employment, rather than learning a bunch of useless information,” said fifth-year business management student Zach Abraham. “The university should be more aware of what employers are asking for. They should focus more on those types of job requirements.” 

In addition, students feel that the technical training they do receive is ineffective, calling the curriculum rushed and confusing.

“There was almost a prerequisite expectation of having already been exposed to it, and we had not been trained in time for that course,” said Abraham when discussing learning statistical software. “It would have been nice to have a little more structure.”   

“The prof didn’t give us adequate training for the work we were required to do,” said business technology management grad Ryan Hack when discussing a programming course. “I remember one student even told the professor about it in class, and she was singled out. The professor’s only response was ‘It’s university, not kindergarten. Figure it out.’”

Ryerson is addressing students’ concerns, but its solution comes in an unexpected form.

To make its students career-ready, TRSM is offering student-run bootcamps that train students in sought-after technical skills. The bootcamps are open to all Ryerson students and alumni and boast a wide variety, ranging from training Python programming to teaching students about design thinking. The selection was directly informed by what employers are looking for, according to TRSM’s Associate Dean Allen Goss.

“In my position here, where I’ve got careers and the co-op office [reporting] into me, I get to hear what employers are asking for in terms of the skills,” said Goss. “I want to be responsive to that and give everyone, regardless of what major they’re in and whether they graduated or not, access to those skills.”

However, some students think that the skills taught in the bootcamp should be included in the curriculum.

“I’m not sure why I need to go out of my way to learn this,” said a third-year accounting student who chose to remain anonymous for privacy concerns. “Most of the time bootcamps are full with sign-ups or they run on the same day twice a semester that never fits with my already loaded course load and workload … If it’s so important why isn’t a part of my program?”

When asked about integrating the bootcamp into actual programs, Goss said, “Curriculum and curriculum change is governed by the structures of the university and can take months. Bootcamps are much more nimble and responsive to what industries are saying they want right now. What’s hot now won’t be hot in a year.”

Goss admits that the training offered in bootcamps is introductory, but feels that they give students the confidence and curiosity to learn these skills on their own.  

“It’s not making you an expert in three hours. But it’s giving enough of a comfort level to say ‘Okay, I’m not afraid to turn this on and try to learn this myself,’” said Goss.

Displaying willingness to learn can land students a job, according to fourth-year economics PhD student Angelique Bernabe.

 “As long as you’re very honest with employers and have an interest in data analysis, they will probably give you some time to adjust once you start the job.” 

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