Grads Go Back to School

This report from the Globe and Mail on students who go to college after university graduation highlights the advantages practical training and a co-operative work experience give you when you’re looking for a job.

A graduate certificate, like that awarded after completion of our 1-year Technical Communication program, gives new grads additional qualifications that differentiate them from other recent graduates in their field of interest. The co-op work placement provides that valuable real world experience that employers look for.

If you’re a new graduate, consider one of the graduate certificate programs at Seneca, or specifically our program in Technical Communication.

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Interested in Technical Communication?

If you’re looking for more information about technical communication, or as it is also known technical writing, you can search for related items or rely on an aggregator like Alltop.

Gathering information about the profession will lead you to a number of well-written blogs, the Society for Technical Communication itself, and a list of programs that provide degrees, diplomas or certificates in various aspects of the discipline.

If you think TechComm is right for you, we’d love to consider your application for our 1-year post-graduate certificate program. It includes a co-operative education component so you can try out the field while you are learning. TechComm is ideal for anyone who loves to write, explain, and play with technology. Contact us if you want more information.

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New Program Co-ordinator

After four years as co-ordinator of the Technical Communication program, Beth Agnew is handing over this responsibility to Anna Parker-Richards.

“It’s a great opportunity to get someone new involved in the Program,” says Professor Agnew. “Anna has been a strong leader in the Toronto chapter of the STC and her drive will be an asset to Seneca College and to our technical communication students.”

Having grown the program from a low of 18 students when she took over as co-ordinator in 2008 to a recent high of 42 students, Professor Agnew is still going to be active in getting the word out about this top post-graduate educational program for those seeking to enter the profession.

“I’ll still be teaching technical communication subjects and working with Anna and our co-op co-ordinator Charmaine Johnson to find appropriate work placements for our students,” says Agnew. Due to the program’s excellent reputation, there are more applicants than ever — prompting a second intake that will begin in May 2013.

Agnew thinks the program provides great return on investment. “The technical communication program is ideal for career changers because they can leverage their existing skills, background and experience into a new profession. Nothing is wasted. For new university graduates, the Tech Comm program offers a way to add to their skills while the students are still in “study mode”. It helps them differentiate themselves from all the others graduating with similar degrees.”

Tech Comm grads have proven technology and communication skills — high value currency in today’s workplace. “Plus, they’re trained to be problem-solvers,” says Agnew. “Providing solutions to customer problems always improves a company’s bottom line. That makes us very valuable commodities in any company.”

Agnew is excited about the new directions the Tech Comm program will be taking with Anna Parker-Richards as co-ordinator. “Anna is a positive leader,” she says. “She’s a master at networking and has the vision to ensure our program is meeting the needs of employers and students.”

For more information on the Technical Communication program, and to apply, see http://senecacollege.ca/fulltime/TECC.html

 

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First Certified Professional Technical Communicator

Professor Beth Agnew, Seneca College, has become one of the first in the world to receive the new Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC)™ designation from the Society for Technical Communication.

“It’s a great step forward for our profession,” says Agnew. “For 40 years our organization has been trying to hit the moving target of what it means to be a technical communicator. Our skills have changed rapidly along with technology and the many ways of communicating it. Finally, this past year the STC settled on our core competencies.”

Certification requires expert evaluation of demonstrated skills in 9 areas that cover user, task and experience analysis, information design, information development, information production, and process management. It includes a commitment to honour a code of conduct and professional ethics.

Long a skilled and qualified professional, Agnew and others awarded the CPTC™ are now recognized on a par with MCSE, PMP, CGA, and other “Registered” or “Certified” experts.

“It’s exciting that our professional organization now can grant official acknowledgement of our skills that employers and clients can rely upon,” she says.

“Our profession is very broad,” says Agnew. “We deal with all aspects of usability, user assistance, product and content development, customer relationships, and information architecture. That’s a tall order. Technical communicators make significant contributions to improving a company’s bottom line by reducing customer support costs and making technology easier to use and understand.”

Technical communicators are industry independent, working as easily in aerospace and engineering as banking, manufacturing and science, though some specialize in their particular areas of interest.

“Practitioner backgrounds are as varied as our workplaces,” notes Agnew. “Ideal for career changers, your existing knowledge and experience are leveraged into communicating about technology to achieve specific results.”

Agnew’s background?

“Fine Arts,” she laughs. “Specifically, Fiction Writing, but that hasn’t hindered me working for NASA, the Geological Survey of Canada or MDS Sciex.”

Professor Agnew is the co-ordinator of the Seneca College one year post-graduate program in Technical Communication and teaches courses in information technology, web-based training and multimedia. The program is focused on giving students a solid foundation in the areas that will be required for certification when they’ve met the experience requirements.

“All you need are an affinity for technology and some writing ability. New grads facing competition for jobs from all their classmates with the same English, Liberal Arts, Computer, or Science degree can take our program in technical communication and quickly differentiate themselves from their competitors. Plus they get co-op work experience that helps launch their new careers.”

Since 1998, the Seneca Tech Comm Program has been graduating skilled technical communicators who have gone on to work for companies such as IBM, RIM, Siemens Milltronics, TD Bank, Mount Sinai Hospital, engineering firms and government ministries.

“Technical Communication is a very rewarding profession,” says Agnew. “When we do our jobs right, it’s completely transparent. We work behind the scenes, and few realize there’s been a technical communicator involved. The only evidence is that products are easier to use, information much easier to understand, and customers are more satisfied with their purchases.”

“Every company can benefit from having a technical communicator on the payroll.”

For more information on the Technical Communication Program, and to apply, see http://www.senecacollege.ca/fulltime/TECC.html. Contact the Society for Technical Communication at http://stc.org.

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Awards from STC Toronto AGM

Seneca College’s Technical Communication Program was acknowledged with a Silver Sponsorship award for providing support to the 2010 Career Day event held by the Toronto community of the STC.

In addition, we were delighted to see one of our grads, Noor Hussain, win the Distinguished Service Award for Students for his outstanding contributions to the Toronto chapter—for inspiration, enthusiasm, creativity, and quiet dedication to the Toronto STC community in organizing networking events and encouraging student participation.

One of our faculty, Bernard Aschwanden, was recognized with the Rennie Charles Award for his leadership and support in the tradition of Rennie Charles, much cherished by the Toronto technical writing community for the “ideas, support, advice and mirth” he shared with them.

Other recognition and Community Service Awards made at the STC Toronto AGM can be found on their site.

Congratulations to all award winners! It is this level of dedication that has made the STC Toronto Community truly one of excellence.

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Employing not Exploiting Students

I’ve recently had another request from a company with a tight budget to engage some of our students on a worthwhile project. I’m very keen on helping students get involved in real world projects while they are still studying. There is great value in that for them. They get experience and the opportunity for a good reference. Frequently, they also get a portfolio item, something they can point to and say, “I worked on that.”

Unfortunately, the latter is often the only thing of value that is offered them when a company seeks student labor to do something they would ordinarily have to pay a professional to do. I advise students against doing something solely “because it will look good in your portfolio!”. They have many opportunities to create something for their portfolio through school projects and co-op placements.

What is more valuable to them is a legitimate work experience, not an exploitative one. Students have up to date skills that they are bringing to the employer, skills that they’ve paid a great deal in money, time, effort, and often stress to acquire. They should be paid for their time. Our co-op employers not only pay students a fair wage, but they provide other opportunities such as on the job training, mentoring, and occasionally bonuses.

Exploiting students because you have a tight budget is simply not acceptable. Be creative; pay them something and sweeten the pot for them. Can you provide bus passes or free products/software? Will they get extraordinary access to senior people in your company to learn things we cannot teach in school? Will you commit to giving them a reference, and refer them to other companies for better paid work?

Make it worth their while to help you out, and you will not only get top quality work from eager and motivated people, but you’ll be establishing a valuable relationship as well. See the opportunity as an investment in their future AND yours. Your reputation will grow as well. In this climate of widespread social media, you want people as connected as students to say good things about your company and help build good will. You can’t put a price on that, and it’s worth every penny.

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