Education: Sheridan College Sharpens Newcomers’ Pencils

by Ashoke Dasgupta
Ashoke is one of the first students in Sheridan’s Internationally-trained Writers Program.

In January 2007, Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning (SITAL) began new programs for some careers where the transition is especially difficult for newcomers.

SITAL is a leader among Canadian colleges in the integration of laptop computing into the learning experience.

Founded in 1967, Sheridan has grown from a locally-based college of 400 students to a dynamic and innovative institution with over 14,000 full-time and 35,000 continuing-education students.

Today, Sheridan attracts students from across Canada and around the world, and is nationally and internationally recognized for excellence in business, digital media and communications, performing arts, visual arts and design, applied computing and telecommunications, engineering and manufacturing sciences, and community service studies.

Joyce Wayne, coordinator of Sheridan’s “Canadian Journalism for Internationally-trained Writers” program says she was aware of numerous immigrant writers in the Toronto area because of her PEN membership. When she suggested having a course like this to
Sheridan’s vice president of academic affairs, the latter was quick to see its value.

The first journalism program has 31 students, immigrants from Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Iran, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Pakistan and elsewhere.

They compete with each other with a subtle ferocity. Sometimes the competition is not even subtle. The program runs the whole year, with a field placement in the third and last semester from September to December.

The tuition fees are $5,500 a year. Most students in the first batch received 50 percent tuition scholarships from donors such as the Globe and Mail, CBC, Torstar and Canadian Press. Some also received bursaries. The scholarships and bursaries were need, not merit-based.

At a reception for the Canadian Journalism program’s organizers and founders, Sheridan academic vice-president Maureen Callahan praised Wayne’s initiative, pointing out that, “…advancing people in the direction of their dreams represents the best that colleges can be and do.”

Fourteen of the 31 students have work placements as of the third week of October. A few placements are paid ones, and in media outlets. The affable Don Sellar, who spent 40 years in journalism, taught the Media Law and Ethics course during the summer, and is now conducting a Work Placement-Internship class says, “I have been warning the class about worsening job prospects in the Canadian media. Prospects may be better for the young. My anecdotal evidence indicates many law students graduate, after seven years in a university, without obtaining articleships for some time.”

Sheridan plans similar programs for immigrant nurses, accountants, early childhood teachers, filmmakers and other professions. Some of these academic productions are being offered here for the first time in the world.

Sheridan also started a Fast Track to Technology Occupations (FTTO) program at its Davis and Oakville campuses this year.

Immigrant engineering technologists will receive English language training, mentors and a work placement. A free sevenweek bridging program, financed by the Ontario government, began July 9. The participants are assessed before entry to the second year of a two- or three-year program.

If a participant’s English competence is judged inadequate, they may be required to enter Sheridan’s Enhanced Language Training program before continuing their technology studies. This is a step that should be applied to the journalism program as well, say some participants.

About 17 interested engineering technologists attended the information session, originally from Chile, Colombia, India, Nigeria and the Philippines. Professors were on hand to discuss opportunities, and facilities were toured.

Successful participants will receive an Ontario Technician certificate or an Ontario Technologist’s certificate, depending on the program they enroll in.

CNM