TAKE THE INITIATIVE
Lakeland College has long had an excellent reputation for the hands-on training it delivers to its many students. At the heart of the Canadian college’s ethos is having students learn not by listening, but by doing.
Take the annual President’s Gala, for instance, where the college, industry leaders and members of the community unite in celebration of student success. It’s the students themselves who help organise and run the entire event, including the important auctioning of items that help fund scholarships. “Now in its fifth year, the President’s Gala is growing into a unique event that showcases how students take the lead at Lakeland,” says Alice Wainwright- Stewart, President and CEO of Lakeland College.
It’s not the only student-led initiative at the college. “It all started 26 years ago with our crop-technology programme,” says Josie Van Lent, Dean of agricultural sciences. “This has since turned into a fully functioning farm that our crop technology and animal-science technology students help to manage. They do all of the marketing, they manage the budgets, they decide what crops to grow and what breeding programme to follow. They constantly interface with industry. They’re not just going to school; they are managers and business partners in our farm. They go out to industry trade-show events and bring that knowledge back to us. We can’t replace that kind of learning.”
Lakeland College serves more than 7,000 students over two campuses, Vermilion and Lloydminster, some 60km apart in Alberta, western Canada, plus through online programming. In recent years, the college has taken its hands- on training one step further, by putting students in real-world situations. The brand-new Energy Centre, for instance, serves as a combined power plant, providing electricity and heat for the Lloydminster campus, where students will work in shifts to operate the lab.
“It’s a state-of-the-art training facility for those who want to be involved in energy,” says Wainwright-Stewart. Lakeland’s firefighting and emergency services technology programmes mimic the scenarios that a real firefighter might encounter. When not responding to simulated fires, students are also responsible for meal planning and preparation, providing them with a good picture of what it is like to work in a fire hall.
While these experiential learning models ensure a high employment rate for graduates – 95 per cent of graduates find a job straight out of college – they also ensure that students learn the soft skills that are so necessary in today’s global workforce. “Without students even realising it they are learning teamwork, decision-making, communication skills, critical thinking and conflict resolution,” says Wainwright-Stewart. “All of these are learned on the job in our student-led initiatives.”
In 2015, Lakeland College was again named one of the top 50 research colleges in Canada. And, that same year, three Lakeland interior design students placed in prestigious design competitions for the 12th year in a row.
“The real measure of success comes when you compare the students in their first year, with who they have become by the time they leave,” says Wainwright-Stewart. “The growth is an exciting transition and it’s happening right before your eyes. By the time they leave us they are brimming with confidence, ready to excel.”