York answers to call for T-shaped professionals
York University’s School of Continuing Studies is leading the way, says its founding executive director, in rethinking professional education to address a deficit in highly skilled workers with the professional competencies to work effectively in cross-functional teams that are the norm in today’s organizations.
“The T-shaped professional is the solution to many employer hiring struggles,” says Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly of the concept that the vertical bar on the T represents the depth of related skills and expertise in a single field and the horizontal bar is the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas. “Our goal isn’t just to position our graduates to get hired, but to be able to demonstrate that they have what it takes to do more and to get promoted.”
Since its launch in January, the School of Continuing Studies has rolled out a range of programs — post-graduate certificates in business administration and accounting, a certificate in human resources management and a post-degree certificate in human resources management — to produce T-shaped professionals.
“The first part-time online certificate in human resources management program began this September and was so popular that we just scheduled another program starting this January,” says Taylor-O’Reilly. “This is a critical element of our program design and is important for programs that serve people early to mid-career. In fact, we plan to announce more programs in 2016.”
With university faculty members guiding program design and curriculum after consideration of data related to industry trends, employer and student needs, labour market forecasts and advisory council feedback, the T-shaped programs are being facilitated as cohorts. This means students start and progress through their undertaking at the same pace.
“There are many benefits to a cohort program, from deeper networking relationships to faster speed of program completion,” says Taylor-O’Reilly. “It also allows us to introduce these professional skills such as presentation, business writing and project management skills, and layer in practice and feedback repeatedly throughout the courses and applied projects.
“So the cohort is designed to suit the needs of the students and it is the tool we leverage to provide an exceptional learning experience.”