Every year, the third year students step into the ambiguity that is job searching. And soon enough, they realize that this program the Faculty boasts about and puts in all their welcome brochures is not as well organized as it ought to be. The Engineering Career Centre (ECC) has received many complaints over the years, and students going on their PEY often complain of the high fees and the lack of jobs on the PEY portal.
Some of the issues that have surfaced about the ECC are that despite UofT’s reputation as the best engineering school in Canada and that several employers are UofT grads themselves, many companies and startups are hiring primarily from Waterloo. While one might believe that this is due to UofT engineering students lacking the necessary skill set, an account from a startup founder (who prefers to be anonymous) states differently. “The ECC portal is difficult to navigate on the employer’s side, and on top of the technical difficulties they faced, the ECC was also difficult to deal with.” Furthermore, there is no review system in place for the recruiters to speak about their experiences with the students and vice versa.
Moreover, as noticed by most, the job opportunities for MSE and Mineral Engineering students are close to none. Most of the ECC’s event calendar is based on Resume Writing workshops, and a few info sessions delivered by ECC staff and interested employers. Several such workshops, networking events, and career fairs are held by professional development clubs like YNCN and WISE, where the talks are given by people who are employed in the companies students are hoping to get into. Also, based on the harsh and aggravated responses to the 2015 Skule Census (which is conducted at the end of every academic year), the main issues students have with the ECC are:
- The ECC gives poor and often times disrespectful service.
- The ECC charges exorbitant fees ($925 for PEY and $250 for eSIP after placement) for no apparent reason.
- The ECC lacks accountability. They make no effort to find you a job, and once registered you are required to pay, regardless of if you found the job through their efforts or not.
It is possible that some of these problems, such as inefficient dealings with companies and the lack of jobs for non-ECE students, could exist because none of the ECC team have degrees in technical fields, nor do they have any type of engineering liaison who could help them navigate the (sometimes) confusing field of technical jobs.
After nearly a decade of inaction, the Faculty seems to have finally paid heed and are looking to make some changes. The recently established PEY advocacy committee formed by the Dean is seeking to implement a series of changes, starting with “Jose Pereira (the ex-director of the ECC) leaving the university effective immediately.” The University rationalized this by saying they were looking for a change in leadership and Pereira decided to leave.
In a meeting between Tom Coyle, the Vice Dean, and the President of EngSoc, the following information was established:
- The Faculty is seeking a new style of operation of the ECC, which will heavily influence the selection of the next leadership of the ECC.
- Efforts will be made to connect the ECC with the disciplinary departments, the Engineering Communication Program (ECP), ILead, the U of T Career Centre, and the You’re Next Career Network (YNCN).
- In the interim, an “Academic Director” will work on establishing relationships with the aforementioned stakeholders; Professor Brenda McCabe (Dept. of Civil Engineering) will take on this role. Said role will also look into the current end-of-PEY reporting structure and identifying existing positions and contacts within departments for resume and cover letter writing.
- A small group including Professor McCabe, Barbara McCann (former Registrar), and Professor Coyle will engage in consultation with relevant stakeholders over the coming months. The current staffing structure may change, and new training may need to be put in place.
- A new director will not be appointed until 2017, as the responsibilities of such a position must be re-evaluated (including considerations of the current position compared to an individual more focused on outreach and position development).
- The budget model may change (either increase or decrease) – the current structure predominantly consists of ECC staff salaries being paid off by student fees.
- The Academic Advocacy Committee has prepared surveys and focus groups for current students and alumni with the intention of gathering information on student experience and expectations.
While it is unclear what led the Faculty to take this step, pushback from EngSoc and students was likely an important part of it. It is important to understand that this is a period of transition, and while those of you looking for jobs currently may be at a slight disadvantage, future students will hopefully be able to benefit from more helpful services provided by the University and more harmony between the different professional services provided by the Faculty and EngSoc.
Update on October 22, 2016: For students who want to give feedback on the ECC’s services, you can do so here.
Editor’s Note: All the statements and sources in this article are based on the Academic Advocacy #7 meeting minutes, the EngSoc President’s September Report, and the Skule Census of 2015 and 2016.