Algonquin students lose job placements due to faculty strike

Algonquin College cancelled work placements for more than 100 programs because of the ongoing faculty strike, leaving students frustrated. That's especially troubling for medical students whose work placements are mandatory.

Work placements for 100 college programs are cancelled, including mandatory ones in the medical field

Algonquin culinary student Simon Nolet found his hands-on class in the campus restaurant was cancelled due to the faculty strike. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

Algonquin College has cancelled work placements for about 100 programs because of the ongoing faculty strike, the college confirmed Monday. 

Students are upset they aren't able to learn on the job and confused about how they'll make up the experience, especially medical students whose work placements are mandatory.

The college has suspended all health program placements in clinical settings, including hospitals.

It's a stressful position to be in... I'm expected to function as a respiratory therapist independently.- Madeleine Poirier, Algonquin student

"That's really frustrating for all of us," said Madeleine Poirier, a third-year respiratory therapy student.

"We don't really understand why we can't go — faculty aren't directly involved. I don't think students at other colleges are being prevented from going to their placements while the strike is going on."

Poirier, 21, was supposed to spend the entire week learning at the Belleville General Hospital where she was to attend emergencies, examine patients and adjust ventilator settings. 

At first, Poirier was told by the college she would be able to go ahead with her placement because it didn't directly involve faculty members. But on Friday, that suddenly changed. 

Clinical site refused to take students during strike

Poirier received an email from the college saying that one clinical site was refusing to take students if there was a strike and that Algonquin management decided to pull all students from clinical placements, 

"So out of fairness they pulled all students from their clinical placement," said Poirier. "That just seems ridiculous to me."

Poirier graduates in eight months and says she needs every hour of the hands-on experience at the hospital. 

"It's a stressful position to be in," said Poirier. "I'm going to be done the program around March. At that point I'm expected to function as a respiratory therapist independently."

Culinary students disappointed

Algonquin College says that some placements are going ahead. However, in addition to the clinical placements, all placements that involve faculty are halted at Ottawa, Pembroke and Perth campuses.

"It depends on the type of placement," said Algonquin College President Cheryl Jensen. "If it's a placement that does not involve faculty supervision, like a co-op term, those go on as usual. But if it's a placement that has a faculty person that's actually supervising the work — obviously we can't run those."

The programs on hold include those run on the college premises including the salon, dental clinic, and massage therapy.

Nolet said he was disappointed at not being able to apply the culinary theory learned in the classroom to use in the college restaurant. (Ashley Burke/CBC)
Twenty-year-old culinary student Simon Nolet dreams of opening his own restaurant after graduating. Next week, as part of his program, he was supposed to start a class at the college's on-campus Restaurant International. Instead, the lights are out and the door is locked.

"It is disappointing," said Nolet. "We can't apply the theory that we're learning. We're not able to serve customers the food that we create. Not having this placement starting next week is definitely saddening for most of the students."

'It's quite disruptive'

The president of Algonquin Students' Association, Victoria Ventura, says halting work placements "throws a wrench" in students' learning.

"It's quite disruptive," she said.
Victoria Ventura, president of the Algonquin Students' Assoc., says halting work placements "throws a wrench" in students' learning. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

Ventura said it's easier for students in theory-based courses to learn on their own during a strike and study at home. But for those in hands-on-programs that learn by doing, the cancellations are a big setback.

"It's hard to practice working in a daycare centre from home," said Ventura. "Just not having that hands on experience to hone your skills everyday. I think students are quite nervous what that's going to mean when they come back."