On Tuesday March 31st ACE-WIL held its first town hall to discuss how members are dealing with COVID-19. The town hall had a peak attendance of 99 people. The town hall in its entirety can be viewed here if you were unable to attend. This blog post also provides a written summary of what was discussed.
1. Employer Support (2:00):
Many employers are asking about how they can facilitate students working remotely. There are a number of resources on the CEWIL website that provide guidance on students working from home. Another frequent request is for students to have later term start dates. This is something the CEWIL has said they are happy to accommodate. A question was asked about how a delayed start to a work term might effect visas and work permits. At this time we are unsure how visa and work permits might be effected but fortunately the sense that members have gotten is that IRCC is willing to be flexible though there has been no formal communication. CBIE has also shown some interest in aiding international students with visa issues. Students who are already in Canada who need renewed permits should go ahead and apply as they will receive implied standing. A question was also asked about how ACE-WIL’s SWPP funding partners will deal with later work term start dates. Again there has been no formal communication but the sense ACE-WIL members have gotten is that they will be flexible.
2. Student Support (6:51):
The town hall then moved on to some of the struggles that students are experiencing. Many students are wondering when they will hear back from employers and this is causing some anxiety. Students are also wondering about financial support if they have been laid off from their jobs. At this time ACE-WIL has not provided any financial support for these students but some institutions have. Many students who are in programs with mandatory work terms are concerned about meeting their requirements. There was discussion of allowing students to take unpaid positions to meet their requirements. Some members feel this would set a bad precedent but others feel that such opportunities should be evaluated on a case by case basis. A number of alternative strategies were discussed for giving students the ability to meet their requirements. The best practices for helping students meet their requirements will be posted on the ACE-WIL website and distributed through all of ACE-WIL’s channels as soon as they are available. It was then discussed whether or not institutions are still hiring students. Many institutions are still hiring students or are encouraging faculty to hire students for research projects. Blackboard Collaborate has been used for interviews.
3. Student Support for Students Who Are Unable to Work From Home (17:07):
Students who’s work requires them to go to a physical workplace are feeling anxiety just as much, if not more acutely than those who can work from home. A lack of certainty on all aspects of work is the root of most of these problems. Many institutions have held a student town hall, similar to this one by ACE-WIL, where student concerns are addressed. Some institutions are rerouting students into academics over the summer but there have been some problems with space in courses. Some institutions have increased capacity in summer courses to handle the increased interest. The question was asked about if students might be eligible for EI but that remains unclear. There have also been issues in regards to student housing and an increased number of students accessing food banks.
4. Tools to Aid Working From Home (23:52)
ACE-WIL members discussed what tools they are using to help facilitate working from home. These tools included Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, Slack, MS teams, Skype for Business, and Google Hangouts.
5. What Can ACE-WIL do For You? (24:56)
ACE-WIL members felt the check ins like this one are helpful. There was discussion of including employers in future town halls and it was decided that this would be a good idea. There was also discussion of other stakeholders taking part in town halls.
6. Next Steps (32:05)
ACE-WIL members agreed to keep the town halls going. The ministry of advanced education is trying to understand better the challenges faced by individual institutions. The government will continue to hire students through the summer. There was discussion of international students who want to do a Co-op in their home country. Some institutions are allowing this while others are not. There have been some relaxed FOIPPA restrictions so it may not be necessary to use an interview tool based on a Canadian server.