Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2021):
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 3, 2020)
Here are some of the reasons why George Brown College was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2021):
- As part of the organization's role as an educator, George Brown supports ongoing employee development with generous tuition subsidies (up to $20,000 for PhD studies) and recently launched a new learning and development strategy, blending multiple learning modalities to provide employees with greater personalization, flexibility and choice
- George Brown encourages employees to prepare for the future with a defined benefit pension plan and retirement planning assistance
- George Brown provides exceptional maternity and parental leave top-up payments for employees who are new mothers (to 93 per cent of salary for 52 weeks), as well as parental top-up for fathers and adoptive parents (to 93 per cent of salary for 35 weeks)
George Brown pulls out all the stops to go virtual
Hannah Thande was both an employee and a student at George Brown College last March. That meant she had to adapt unusually quickly when the college abruptly closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and transferred almost all work and study from in-person to online.
“It’s been amazing, after the initial shock and everything that’s happened with the pandemic,” says Thande, who remains employed as an entry advising clerk and in August was due to complete a one-year career development practitioner program. “The organization has made sure we’ve had access to all the tools and resources we needed.”
That the college has largely succeeded in making those resources available is to its credit, given the number of students and faculty involved and the range of programs on offer. Leslie Quinlan, vice-president of human resources, public safety and security, says the winter semester was nearly complete when the pandemic hit in March.
The bigger challenge came when faculty had to offer the full spring and summer semesters online. The spring session had to be delayed a few weeks to ease the transition, but the college’s Teaching and Learning Exchange stepped in with some timely assistance.
“About 1,000 faculty went through a program to teach them how to be effective with digital tools, how to be comfortable teaching online and how to convert programs to online,” says Quinlan. “We created a portal to help students transition to the realities of learning online and we had over a million hits on that site.”
Labs were converted to online where possible. So, for instance, chefs recorded sessions from kitchens on campus while students watched remotely and then prepared food in their homes. Some labs, especially those involving trades, must be delivered in person, which means bringing as many as 2,500 faculty and students into buildings across the campus, though not all at one time.
“We’ve done what we needed to do in terms of way signing, where to enter, using elevators, screening and contact tracing,” says Quinlan.
Practicums – or temporary job placements – presented another challenge. Thande and other students in the career practice professional program were scheduled to do theirs over the summer. “Our program coordinators took the initiative to find placements for us,” says Thande. “I was really, really happy with that.”
The college has organized virtual town halls to keep faculty, staff and students up to date on the financial and other repercussions of the pandemic. Sessions held on successive days in early October attracted as many as 700 participants who tuned in virtually.
The college has given generously to local institutions, including St. Michael’s Hospital, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Hazelton Place Retirement Home. It has distributed 12,000 pairs of latex gloves and 950 medical gowns. Students and faculty in the fashion program made 7,500 non-medical face masks, which were shared with the same institutions.
In partnership with the Student Association, the college raised $1 million for students who had financial need arising from the pandemic. These funds were generated through individual donations and funding from both the college and the Student Association. Unions affiliated with the college partnered to raise money for food boxes for students and employees. The college also loaned over 600 mobile computing devices for students who needed them.