Last Wednesday, the Career Centre held their annual Get Experience Fair. With over 720 students in attendance at the fair, exhibitors largely consisted of approximately 65 on and off-campus organizations.

“The fair is an opportunity to connect UTM students with volunteer opportunities that could develop and expand their skill sets which employers would look for in candidates,” said Anna Gaiger, assistant director of the Career Centre in an email to The Medium.

“Employers tell us that volunteer experience is very often looked at as being just as important to skill development as paid work,” said Gaiger. “Many students have an idea of the kind of work they would like to do in the future, and they look for experiences at the fair that will give them exposure to work related to those areas.”

Gaiger expressed that from pedagogical research done around post-secondary education, it has been shown that students who participate in volunteer activities and paid work during their undergraduate years, find more success and satisfaction in their academic life than students who do not.

Gaiger described that “In addition to helping students build skills and find out more about areas they might like to pursue in their careers, volunteering helps students make a contribution to our community and build toward responsible citizenship.”

Similarly, Alysha Ferguson, Student Development Officer for Community Engagement at the Centre for Student Engagement says in an email to The Medium, “Volunteering is an amazing opportunity for students to gain soft skills while learning about the organizations in the community who are doing great work for the region, the community appreciates having students be engaged because they bring new ideas, new energy and a willingness to give valuable time to organizations with limited resources.”

Ferguson also mentions how motivations for volunteering can be diverse, owing to the variable nature of volunteering projects that can range from short term commitments to long term initiatives, or instead of focusing on a direct interaction with the community, could take a different approach by promoting research. “We have a project with Max’s Big Ride and UTM’s own, Andrew Sedmihradsky, for students to work on [….] these students will […] have the chance to connect with Patrick Gunning’s research team to learn about the research that is happening and how they can help promote the work of the research team and the organization to our community.

The Medium spoke to students participating with Community on Campus at UTM, where volunteers are paired with adult students with special needs for an hour to complete certain recreational or vocational activities together.

Roman Fischer, a fourth-year student in the business management program, who has been volunteering with CONC for three years, said: “It’s a great opportunity to make an immediate impact. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to commute since it’s already on campus and […] I think it’s important for me personally to shape my interpersonal skills.”

A fourth-year psychology student at UTM and a volunteer at CONC, Parnika Celly, expressed that she would continue volunteering after graduation. “I believe that experiences like these are what enrich us as people, and help build a sense of community that is necessary, perhaps now more than ever.”

Johnathon Boodramall, a second-year student from Sheridan, studies social service work and volunteers  with CONC to complete his program requirement. He stated that he is “not really a social person […] but this really gets me out there talking to people which is really cool.”

“It makes me happy at the end of the day—not to be cheesy or anything but it does,” added Boodramall.