NBSA Applauds the Establishment of the Student Experiential Learning Fund and Additional Investments in Experiential Learning

Fredericton, N.B. 一 In an announcement made this morning in Moncton, the Minister of Postsecondary Education, Roger Melanson, announced $5 million in targeted funding for experiential learning which will be available to all postsecondary students beginning this fall.

The New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA) applauds this crucial investment that allows for increased experiential learning opportunities for postsecondary students in the province, especially as experiential learning becomes an increasingly essential part of a students’ academic experience and post-graduation transition into the workforce. This announcement comes after several years of work by the NBSA in collaboration with the province’s Experiential Learning Steering Committee. Since 2016, the NBSA has ensured that the student voice and student perspective were accounted for with the Committee in an effort to bolster the postsecondary sector.

More recently, the NBSA also spent considerable time advocating for the implementation of such a program in its 2017 Advocacy Document, Mandating a Better New Brunswick.

“We are delighted to see that the NBSA’s recommendation for the creation of an experiential learning fund has been accepted and will be put in place this coming fall,” said Brianna Workman, Chair of the NBSA’s Board of Directors. “This fund will allow more students to access these necessary opportunities while still in study, thus providing them with essential training outside of the classroom”. The NBSA has long advocated that in order to improve the academic experience for students in New Brunswick, serious efforts are needed to support students in fields of study that traditionally lack experience learning components.

In addition to the Student Experiential Learning Fund (SELF), the $5 million investment per year also allocates funding for Indigenous students to seek work experience outside of traditional educational and internship opportunities, as well as funds for bursaries for those students in nursing, education, and nutrition to cover the cost of mandatory work-placements.

“Overall, today’s announcement will provide New Brunswick students with the opportunity for experiential learning regardless of their field of study,” said Emily Blue, Executive Director of the NBSA. “These opportunities will provide students  with a competitive edge as they join the workforce upon graduation.”

For instance, recent data has shown that access to a paid internship or work placement can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on a student’s chance of employment after graduation. Two thirds of students who have access to a paid internship during their studies acquire gainful employment less than five years after graduation. As a result of today’s announcement, more New Brunswick students will be paid for their work while also gaining valuable experience in their field.

“The opportunities created as a result of this investment are fantastic opportunities for students to take advantage of,” said Simal Qureshi board director with the NBSA. “This will play a big part in ensuring that New Brunswick graduates develop necessary on-the-job skills by linking their academic experience with tangible workplace experience. This will certainly have an  impact on graduate unemployment and underemployment.”

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Maritime students call for government funding on student mental health

Fredericton, NB — Student organisations in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island are calling on their respective governments to fund innovative mental health intervention programs to improve the mental fitness and wellbeing of postsecondary students in the Maritimes.

In August, the New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA) and Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS) released a national joint publication on the state of student mental health along with partners in Ontario and Alberta. The report highlighted the unmet needs of postsecondary students with regard to mental health support services on campus.

“It was important for us to establish a cross-country review of the current state of mental health,” said Sara Camus, chair of the NBSA’s Board of Directors. “Our publication noted that the status quo in New Brunswick is contributing to poor mental health outcomes in the province.”

In New Brunswick from 2012 to 2015, the number of postsecondary students requesting disability accommodation for mental health-related problems and illnesses increased threefold. By 2015, mental health was the most prevalent reason students from the NBSA’s Member Unions visited on-campus physicians. Average waitlists for mental health-related services at the province’s universities range on average from 2 to 6 weeks, and can grow up to 6 months long on some campuses during the academic year.

“Premier Gallant recently reiterated his government’s commitment to improving mental health outcomes. The investments we are proposing would significantly and quantifiably achieve these results,” said Robert Burroughs, NBSA executive director.

The NBSA, StudentsNS, and the UPEI Student Union are seeking an combined $700,000 from their respective governments for a suite of technology-based solutions already endorsed by the 16 public universities in Atlantic Canada.

Together, the suite of programs would improve four different areas known to impact student mental health outcomes: mental health literacy, peer support, professional counselling, and service delivery using e-mental health technologies. The suite includes online peer support and professional telephone counselling, 24/7, 365 days-a-year. The utility and efficacy of these programs are evidence-based and the NBSA, StudentsNS, and the UPEISU expect that they will be transformative to the mental health landscape for postsecondary students. In particular, the implementation of these diverse services will tackle one of the largest issues facing postsecondary counselling centres — waitlists.

“The government could not have been clearer in its Throne Speech that programs like these are key to its mandate. We look forward to their support and investment in the wellbeing of New Brunswick’s postsecondary students,” Burroughs added.

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Students celebrate successful Chamber resolution

Fredericton, NB — Postsecondary students in New Brunswick are celebrating the successful adoption of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce’s policy resolution at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Annual General Meeting in Fredericton, yesterday.

The resolution, titled “Attracting and Retaining International Students Through Work Experience”, advocated for expanded work opportunities for international students in Canada both during and after their postsecondary studies. These include allowing international students to qualify for the Canada Summer Jobs program and participate in co-op programs. The resolution now becomes official Canadian Chamber policy.

“This is good news for international students in the province and the country,” said Sara Camus, Chair of the New Brunswick Student Alliance Board of Directors. “Having the business communities, especially the ones here in New Brunswick, united in sponsoring international students in the province is a huge step forward to ensuring they are welcomed and treated fairly here.”

NBSA staff were involved in the drafting of the resolution and offered advice to the Fredericton Chamber during the development phase. Earlier in the summer, the NBSA fully endorsed the resolution and applauded the Fredericton Chamber for championing New Brunswick’s postsecondary students.

“This is further proof of the strong relationship that our Alliance has with the Fredericton Chamber,” said Robert Burroughs, the NBSA’s executive director. Earlier this month, the NBSA and the Fredericton Chamber signed a 2-year partnership to grow networking opportunities for postsecondary students in Fredericton. “From our partnership to the resolution’s successful national adoption… this is an auspicious start to the school year for all of us in the postsecondary world.”

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NBSA signs partnership with Fredericton Chamber

Fredericton, NB — The New Brunswick Student Alliance and the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce have signed a 2-year strategic partnership with the purpose of expanding professional networking opportunities for postsecondary (PSE) students.

In addition to offering postsecondary students in Fredericton free access to all chamber networking events, such as the monthly Business Over Breakfast and Business After Hours, the partnership will also allow students to register for chamber events, such as State of the City or State of the Province addresses, at member rates through the NBSA.

“Postsecondary education is the lifeblood of Fredericton. This deal is about better integrating students into the community in which they both study and live through enhanced networking such as those that the Chamber offers,” said Robert Burroughs, NBSA executive director.

The NBSA is a proud member of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, representing almost 10,000 postsecondary students in the City of Fredericton. Alliance staff sit on two Chamber committees, the participation on which are solidified in the partnership.

“Students and the PSE sector are a critical part of Fredericton’s current and future economy,” said Krista Ross, Fredericton Chamber CEO. “The sector is one of the primary economic drivers in the community and our students are our future business owners, employees and community leaders. Connecting students to the business community is a win-win and the NBSA are excellent partners to make that happen.”

“Fredericton is a student-driven economy. I look forward to seeing the benefits that this will bring to our students in the city,” said Madi Banks Vice-Chair of the NBSA’s Board of Directors. “Students are always looking for ways to better prepare themselves for life after graduation and we anticipate that this will help.”

The next Chamber networking event is the Business After Hours on Thursday, September 7, 2017 at Cominar.

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Students concerned with latest graduate employment outcomes

Fredericton, NB — The New Brunswick Student Alliance is concerned by the latest employment outcome figures on the graduating Class of 2014.

The figures, released last week by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission indicate declines over the past decade in full-time employment and median earnings (in constant dollars) for postsecondary graduates in New Brunswick.

“This represents a very real problem for the province’s ability to retain young people,” said NBSA Board Chair Sara Camus. “An educated, well-paid workforce is the future of New Brunswick and our graduates need to be adequately supported to stay in the province after their studies.”

The drop in the number of recent graduates working in jobs requiring university education or management indicates another worrying trend: the underemployment of young people across the Maritimes.

“Underemployment is a very real issue for recent graduates,” noted Robert Burroughs, NBSA executive director. “Add to that high debt levels and declining wages, and we have the makings of a demographic disaster for New Brunswick.”

The NBSA has previously urged government to address high debt levels — 50 percent higher than the national average — of graduates in New Brunswick by making necessary changes to programs such as the Timely Completion Benefit (TCB). The TCB, a debt relief program, was last modified in 2015 by imposing a higher debt-cap on students.

Burroughs added, “Student loan debt reduction is a component of the government’s Economic Growth Plan and should be: high debt levels are linked with slow economic growth and outmigration. Yet, two years on and the TCB remains unchanged.”

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NBSA accepts integral role in SEED program

Fredericton, NB – Postsecondary students in New Brunswick are pleased with the recent changes to the Student Employment Experience Development (SEED) program announced last Friday.

The NBSA has been engaged with the PETL team responsible for the SEED program since the Fall and recommended improvements to the program. Almost all were adopted and have been implemented for the 2017 season.

“Changes, particularly to the marketing and communication of the voucher program, were necessary and we are delighted that the Department was willing to take student and stakeholder concerns on board and make welcomed improvements,” added Robert Burroughs, executive director. “The Minister’s commitment to keeping SEED a student-focused employment program is also greatly appreciated.”

Proposed in these changes include a draw for student vouchers. NBSA staff will serve as third-party validators to certify the independence of the draw.

“We are pleased to have a strong working relationship with the civil servants at PETL,” said Travis Daley, NBSA Board Chair, “and will be working with them over the coming weeks to flesh out the NBSA’s role as a validator and how we can help our membership better understand the voucher process.”

Effective immediate, the NBSA will also voluntarily exempt itself as an employer in the SEED program and its Board Directors will henceforth recuse themselves as voucher recipients for as long as the NBSA is involved in the validation process.

Students can apply for the SEED program through NBjobs.ca here.

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