Flexibility in action

Mohawk College prioritizes learner choice and industry responsiveness in its growing range of programs, credentials and learning modalities

Programming excellence at Mohawk College is driven by a focus on flexibility and choice for learners and responsiveness to industry needs.

A spectrum of credentials that includes diplomas, advanced diplomas, graduate certificates, degrees and micro-credentials offers something for any type of student and the pathways to laddered and stacked learning.

“We are attracting so many learners because we meet them right where they are and help them achieve what they want to,” says Vice President, Academic Dr. Cebert Adamson.

And graduates are being snapped up by employers in high-demand industries.

A range of programs in health sciences, skilled trades, business, engineering technology and community services are seeing employment rates in the high 90s and even 100 per cent. In many cases, students are employed before they finish their studies, says Adamson.

Mohawk’s Aviation programs can’t graduate enough students, even after doubling enrolment in the new Centre for Aviation Technology, he says.

“We have a massive interest in growing that program into one of the biggest in Canada.”

Across its program offerings and range of credentials, Mohawk is exploring the development of online, hybrid and high-flex modalities, says Adamson.

“Our Transportation Management program is the only one of its kind in Canada and we are working on an online version. We recently rolled out a digital learning strategy that will transform how we deliver programming.”

The flexible model allows students to choose between in-person and real-time or at their own pace online learning. That is key for a college population that has markedly shifted, says Adamson.

“Only about 25 per cent of our students are coming directly from high school with the balance being at least two years out of high school. They have either previously gone to college or university or have worked.”

A rapidly growing cohort of Mohawk learners are reskilling or upskilling to retool their careers in some way.

“We are seeing our demographic get older. These are students who know what they want to do. They are dedicated and hardworking. And they want a dynamic mix of programs and credentials because they are coming from all sectors.”

Forefront of collaboration

Nephrologist Dr. Azim Gangji is vice-president of education at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. He oversees about 4,000 learners each year in medicine, nursing, allied health, and non-healthcare fields within in the hospital’s operations.

As an academic health science centre, St. Joseph’s highly values its partnerships with Mohawk College and McMaster University, says Gangji.

St. Joseph’s is in the midst of developing a multidisciplinary simulation centre that will provide real-life scenarios for clinical training across the system’s acute care, long-term care and home care operations.

“We will run through code blue or code white events, teach how to communicate bad news to a patient, and model working in a collaborative health care team.”

Gangji says Mohawk is a critical piece of the local healthcare sector by providing primary education to future healthcare professionals, along with the ongoing training that keeps practising professionals currently and allows for upskilling to meet staffing shortages.

“Mohawk is always at the forefront of collaboration. They are supportive, innovative and always open to new ideas. We are very lucky to have this College in Hamilton. It has a wonderful reputation across the country.”

Differentiated programming

Unique and innovative programs are setting Mohawk apart, says Dean Sylvia Lowndes who oversees more than 50 programs within the McKeil School of Business and the School of Creative Industries, Liberal Studies & Communication.

A new online BBA- Trades Management degree has 21 students in its inaugural year and is poised for growth. It allows apprentices and journeypersons to complete a degree in just two years. With asynchronous delivery, this program offers the ultimate in flexibility to students who are upskilling in management and business practices while continuing to work in the trades.

Mohawk’s newly launched the Bachelor of Analytics and Data Management (Honours) degree will train professionals to make sense out of streams of data. It combines courses in business, computing and communications in the “perfect interdisciplinary offering,” says Lowndes.

“Everyone wants to see the numbers but what do they mean? If you can use the numbers to make better decisions and if you can tell the story behind them, that adds huge value at the boardroom table.”

Lowndes says she foresees the development of more credentials that combine disciplines in unique ways.

“Today’s jobs don’t exist in isolation. I think an interdisciplinary lens will position our graduates very well. And that approach is only one way we can differentiate ourselves from university degrees.”

Another differentiator for Mohawk is its focus on pathways that give choices and options to students, says Lowndes. That includes general and introductory programs that explore the breadth of a field, such as business or media, before students choose a specialization.

Pathways also provide links between credentials that allow learners to layer their learning.

“That’s important because it means flexibility. A diploma graduate in commerce, for instance, could go on to do a graduate certificate in a deep specialty like project management.”

Direct paths to industry

Mohawk College also offers graduate certificates, which are often eight months in duration, in business analytics, human resources management, project management, business analysis, public relations, cyber security, and supply chain. They are in demand among those looking to make a career change, often into sectors of rapid employment growth, and for those looking to seek promotions.

“These graduate certificates have very high employment rates because they feed directly into industry,” says Lowndes. These programs are particularly sought after by university graduates who are looking for a skill set that leads directly to employment.

Mohawk College’s fully remote Library Technician graduate certificate is the only one of its kind in the country.

“We have students who are on both coasts and everywhere in between. It’s a flagship program for us,” says Adamson.

Micro-credentials, which are short, targeted and focused courses in highly specific areas that can be taken as one-off courses or in stacks, are a fast emerging area of strength for Mohawk, says Adamson.

They are almost always developed in partnership with industry and they set learners apart from their competition for jobs. They often appeal to employees looking to advance into leadership roles, pivot into new areas of expertise or needing to be trained in cutting-edge technology.

Capitalizing on strengths

The College has also placed a priority on layering an entrepreneurial mindset into its curriculum beyond business and supporting the business aspirations of students and staff through its Centre for Entrepreneurship.

Students have launched 30 businesses through the centre, which offers mentorship, a speaker series, a pitch competition and resources for faculty to embed in their curriculum.

“An entrepreneurial mindset is an important skill set. Freelance, contract and gig work are a reality for many in today’s economy. Many business owners also start their entrepreneurship (intrapreneurship) journey within a corporate organization and then decide to take the leap out on their own.”

Adamson says developing the Centre for Entrepreneurship into a world-class hub of business incubation is a priority for the College’s leadership.

Mohawk has also recently launched a Small Business and Entrepreneurship certificate, in which learners develop a business plan and launch a venture, fully supported by a Small Business Foundations program. Along with the traditional classroom delivery, this program will be fully available in an online format in the fall of 2023.

“New program development is top of mind at all times,” says Lowndes.

“It is a constant process of examining emerging demands, renewing current programs, consulting with industry. We are focused on building on the technical expertise of our faculty and program niches, and the kinds of strengths that are rich in our DNA at Mohawk. So, for example, something like XR and VR is an area we can capitalize on as we launch our new Game-Design program alongside our very popular Animation 3D program.”

Mohawk has developed a novel Bachelor of Digital Health degree that has grown out of the College’s established leadership in applied research in digital health. It is one of two standalone degrees now offered by the College. More degrees are in the works, says Adamson.

The pandemic restrictions that required a broad shift to online teaching demonstrated that style works for those with work, family or personal responsibilities that make in-person learning difficult.

For that reason, the McKeil School of Business developed a completely online version of its “workhorse” Business diploma program.

“That serves a broader market and attracts different types of students. We are now developing online versions of our Supply Chain, International Business Management, and Small Business curriculum. Flexible learning options are key to meet the ever-changing needs of learners out there,” says Lowndes.

“From a talent development perspective, ongoing learning is so important because in the modern economy, the required work skills, situational dynamics and skill relevancy shift so quickly. Offering flexible programming options are key considerations for training providers, ensuring learners can upskill as required. Education is no longer a one-time event.”