The Waterloo Region Future of Work and Learning Coalition has been working to bring light not only to the ways employers can prepare for the future, but also the way educational institutions can evolve to meet the needs of tomorrow’s workforce.

As a coalition partner, Wilfrid Laurier University is looking at these challenges as an opportunity to reposition itself as more than a four-year stop on a traditional learning and career journey.

Sheldon Pereira is the Chief of Staff and Director, Strategic Initiatives at Laurier. He works with the university’s President and Vice Presidents to give guidance on the trends the 108-year-old institution should be looking at. “It’s an opportunity to be plugged into the emerging future and how we can continue to provide value to our community as contexts change,” Pereira said.

The university is looking at how to support people throughout their careers. This means looking beyond traditional professional development and training opportunities.

With an interest to continue to evolve to meet the changing nature of the future of work and learning, Pereira and the team at Laurier have already started experimenting. In January, we introduced you to Lindsay Tayler , Co-ordinator, Professional Development Programming at Laurier. Tayler is participating in a year-long part-time secondment pilot project between the university and Communitech.

The secondment arrangement originated from a conversation between Pereira and Simon Chan, Vice President, Talent, Academy, & Future of Work at Communitech. “What better way to embody our commitment to the future of work and learning than demonstrate our willingness to take a risk?” Pereira said.

For the team at Communitech, the secondment offers unique opportunities. “Having Lindsay here is great because not only do we get to strengthen our relationship with one of our partners, we have the opportunity as a non-profit organization to access additional resources and provide a development opportunity for our staff to learn from a staff member from a large, local academic institution,” Chan said.

At Communitech, Tayler works as part of the Talent team focused on future of work and learning initiatives. From working on partner relations to planning events, she has the same responsibility, access and expectations of a full-time employee. “Every day is different here at the Communitech Hub (in downtown Kitchener),” said Tayler. “It’s an amazing learning and development experience that provides me opportunities to develop new skills and make meaningful connections that I may not have had the chance to do through just working at Laurier.”

Tayler is now two months into the year-long secondment project. At the start, she had some hesitation around splitting her time and focus between Laurier and Communitech. “I felt very worried about how to split my time fairly and that I was truly going to have to be at Communitech 50 per cent of the time and at Laurier 50 per cent of the time for both organizations to feel like they were getting value out of this arrangement.” 

To her relief, she has found that many of the communication tools that tech companies use daily have made it easy to manage her time and priorities. “Both Laurier and Communitech have been great about allowing me to keep communication open using email and chat apps to see when there are certain activities that need to be a priority over others and adjust my work day – and location – to accommodate,” added Tayler.

Pereira described the secondment as a no-brainer. “It’s a great ethnographic experiment on how we operationalize a project like this,” he said. “It can also be instructive for how a university can better embody the emerging trends related to the future of work and learning.”

The future of work and learning is an area where learning is continuous and supported by employers. We don’t stop developing as people,” said Pereira. “We need to start treating professional and personal development as being inextricably linked, and enduring over a lifetime. We can help our students and alumni continue to develop as people while they continue to develop as professionals.”