First off, what’s a Working Group?
Working Groups are teams of students and collaborators who focus on areas of research that affect the student experience. In the past, these areas have included academic requirements, co-op, sustainability, and mental health.We produce formal reports and presentations on selected areas of research, which we deliver to organizations such as the Council of Ontario Deans in Engineering and the provincial government, and provide resources to schools to help them improve their services and school community.
Why start a Working Group?
If you’re passionate about student issues such as engineering society governance, mental health, or education, and want to help make a difference on a provincial level, an ESSCO Working Group is agreat way to do that!
Working with ESSCO also ensures you have the support and resources of ESSCO and OSPE so you don’t have to figure out how to do this alone! You get dedicated executive support through the ESSCO Executive Team: Working Groups are fully managed by one ESSCO team member, and reviewed regularly by the entire team. ESSCO’s partnership with OSPE also ensures that advocacy experts in the engineering field provide training, advice, research support and reviews of all documents.
How do I pick a topic?
Easy! Pick a problem, and decide how you want to approach it. To propose a Working Group topic, you don’t need to have a full, fleshed-out plan, and after review, your can update your proposal. What you do need is an understanding of the problem and what ESSCO can do to address it.
Ask yourself a few simple questions:
Check out our infographic below for a quick checklist!
By Tiffany Joseph, Student Affairs Commissioner 2019-2020
December has been a busy time for our team. Amidst the craze of exams and holiday obligations, the Advocacy team has solidified considerable policy which will now ensure that a range of Working Group research topics are voted on at AGM this year. The perks of this policy include:
Additionally, a new report by our Provincial Councillor, Katie Arnold, detailing recommendations to the ESSCO Executive sturucture was reviewed at the December Teleconference. A key takeway from this report is the PC’s recommendation to elevate the Student Affairs Commissioner to an Executive VP Advocacy position, who will then oversee the Working Groups as well as the EDI, Outreach and Sustainability Commissioners. Perks of this include:
If you are interested in this, you will be able to run for the VP Advocacy position at the 2020 Annual General Meeting! Please send me an email if you have any questions or would like to learn more about my portfolio.
The EDI, Sustainability and Academic Working Groups are completing the final drafts of their data collection tools including surveys, focus group questions and the accompanying email advertising. Due to the Student Choice Initiative's uncertain future, our Ancillary Fee Working Group is currently on pause.
In addition, we have finally wrapped up our Advocacy page edits in time for the new year. New blog posts will be available describing how you can present your idea for your working group at the Annual General Meeting at McMaster University in February 2020, but be sure to contact your VP External first.
In preparation for the new year, we will be uploading the monthly reports for our Working Groups, and begin preparing the final report and presentation for AGM 2020. In January, we look forward to presenting an update to the Council of Ontario Deans in Engineering, and meeting with the ESSCO internal team for our final internal meeting before transition in the Spring.
Thank you for your interest in the Advocacy team in 2019!
On November 6th, our Inclusivity and Outreach Commissioners attended the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers’ EDI(Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) Imperative Forum in Ottawa. This annual event brings together EDI advocates and enthusiasts ranging from students to Professional Engineers who are engaged in the engineering community and want to improve the accessibility and inclusivity of the field.
Equity, diversity and inclusion is a multifaceted issue which seeks to understand and advocate for the complex and unique needs of individuals from different groups. Here’s a breakdown of these concepts, if you’re not quite familiar.
“Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Canada’s STEAM sector is vital –the moral and business case has been made. If we don’t work together to remove barriers to full inclusion, our businesses, educational institutions, and society will miss out on innovative ideas, perspectives and attitudes that can help shape our nation’s future.
It is time to recognize that more needs to be done to ensure EDI becomes a reality, not only by sharing insights on the challenges that persist, but by defining solutions to address them. This event is not just about creating a conversation, it’s about fostering a movement. How can we make an impact?”
To see what our commissioners had to say about the event, check out their video below!
By Tiffany Joseph, Student Affairs Commissioner 2019 - 2020
Hi everyone! Happy Fall! Like the leaves off the trees, our working groups are falling into place! We have just concluded our review of Working Group applications, and very soon, our chairs will be having their first meeting with their new teams!
ESSCO Internal Meeting
Three weeks ago, our entire internal ESSCO team came together in the GTA for a weekend of working, strategic planning and team bonding. Thanks to our OSPE partners, we were able to facilitate training for our Working Group chairs about Advocacy 101, the fundamentals of advocacy, and Research Methods for Quantitative and Qualitative Data Collection. These presentations were key in framing our working groups’ efforts for the year, and the upcoming addition of the members to each team.
The Advocacy Team spent a great deal of time on our portfolio:
This month’s ESSCO Webinar featured the Advocacy side of ESSCO. The Webinar’s theme focused on Advocating Effectively, and gave us an opportunity to showcase how the use of effective planning methods yielded deeper student connection, proper understanding of issues in the community, and the most efficient method of addressing student issues. To view our presentation, refer to the slides posted in our reports section!
By Jeffrey Lee, President 2019 - 2020
Hello everyone! My name is Jeffrey Lee the ESSCO President and on October 9th, 2019, I headed to Parkview Manor in North York, Toronto to to attend OSPE’s Federal Election Round Table on behalf of ESSCO. The goal of this event was to voice OSPE’s Task Force Recommendations to the candidates from federal parties. Moreover, there was an opportunity for a Q&A which allowed audience members to speak with both OSPE’s Task Forces and federal candidates who were present, including representatives from the Green Party, New Democratic Party (NDP) and People’s Party of Canada (PPC).
OSPE invited all of its members to this event, including its student members. OSPE offered a special Q&A period for students to ask questions of the federal candidates, which gave us a unique opportunity to voice our concerns in a supportive, engineering-focused environment.
The main question I posed was: “With many of the initiatives that you proposed, this will require a large input from STEM fields. What is your party doing to ensure that STEM is promoted as a profession in high school to post secondary institutions?” Each of the candidates’ responses described how their party was engaging the STEM field: the Green Party and NDP had a similar platform of investing in subsidies that would make education more affordable while the PPC wanted to support education as well as evaluate the need for STEM in our current market before making that investment. In addition, they believed in looking into privatization of education.
I believe that events like these are a great opportunity for students to engage with their communities. Many of the engineers in attendance are members of the workforce who truly care about the impact they make, and have valid concerns of where government will take engineering into the future. As a student, it is an incredible opportunity to offer our perspective to federal candidates as well as the engineering community as they help us shape the next generation of engineers.
I highly encourage you to attend events like this and give your thoughts to your community or political figure since much of the work they do will affect your daily lives. As a student, you can become an OSPE student member for free! Attend events like these, engage with professionals in social settings, and learn more about the engineering profession, not to mention the amazing benefits that accompany a membership!
by Tiffany Joseph, Student Affairs Commissioner 2019-2020
Hi everyone! A quick update on our goings-on for September:
This month at the President’s Meeting-Professional Engineers Ontario-Student Conference (PEO-SC), we presented to Council all of the work we have been doing, including the development of our Working Groups’ operational timelines, the review by OSPE and the cooperation of our Chairs and Chair teams.
We successfully approved our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Working Group (woohoo!) and the team is all set for applications opening a few days after the conclusion of the conference. Some exciting things are in store so stay tuned for October!
By Tiffany Joseph, Student Affairs Commissioner 2019-2020
Hello everyone, and welcome to the first instalment of the monthly ESSCO Working Groups News Updates! I am the 2019-2020 Student Affairs Commissioner and starting this month, I will be posting an update at least once per month regarding the goings-on of our working groups and advocacy team.
Working Group Development & Planning
In June and July, we got our three working groups up and running: Sustainability, Academic Teaching Quality and Ancillary Fee. Our President and I met with each team of chairs to discuss their goals, complete the new Working Group form, and to work with them to develop their goals and operational timelines. We also created new policy regarding the establishment and continuation of our working groups, which help organize and document the work done by our advocacy team.
The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) has been collaborating with us to fine-tune our working group plans, provide training to our teams, and to give feedback on our areas of research. We have also been working on updating content for our advocacy page on the ESSCO website with our IT Commissioner and Marketing Commissioner, and finalizing our sign-up form.
Sustainability Working Group
Our sustainability working group has set their course for the year, and are focusing on the shortcomings of events with respect to sustainable practices. The Working Group will assess the areas in which our events can focus on conservation of resources,: alternatives to single-use plastics, energy usage, and strategies to reduce waste and educate our event planners across the province.
Academic Teaching Quality Working Group
Our academic working group has renewed from last year and seen the appointment of its chair, Lucas Moncada of University of Western Ontario. This team will be focusing on collecting hard data regarding student satisfaction with their education, and identifying key strategies for optimizing student learning including but not limited to:
Ancillary Fee Working Group
This working group will be investigating the impact of the Student Choice Initiative on engineering societies and engineering student clubs financially as well as culturally, as budget cuts can have significant implications for activities organized and funded by our student members.
The Student Choice Initative came into effect in the Spring of 2019, and required to students to select which student fees which they would pay. These student fees are typically paid through a percentage of tuition fees, and fund organizations such as engineering societies, ESSCO and other student clubs and provide students with opportunities for engagement.
In the coming weeks, we are looking forward to launching our working group membership applications, introducing training resources for our working groups including data analysis 101 and equity, diversity and inclusion strategies for ensuring our data represents the Ontario student voice, and potentially adding a new Working Group to the mix! This year’s joint PM-PEO-SC Conference is just under a month away, and we will be providing updates to our members then. We will also be working on policy to ensure that year to year, ESSCO’s member interests are well-covered in our working groups, and are excited to present this feedback to members.
Updated December 2019.
On January 17th, 2019 the Ontario government released changes to the current Ontario tuition framework, which includes a 10% decrease in tuition costs to publicly funded universities and colleges, a freeze of tuition costs in the 2020-2021 school year, changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and an option to opt-out of non-essential ancillary fees.
For the 2018-2019 school year, the average Ontario engineering tuition was $12,543 for domestic students. This amount is substantially higher than the engineering tuition in all other Canadian provinces. Ontario engineering students are appreciative of the 10% reduction in tuition fees followed by a tuition freeze. However, the Engineering Student Societies’ Council of Ontario (ESSCO) is concerned about the effect of the tuition fee reduction on the quality of education, and access to high quality lab resources, such as modern equipment and supplies, without increased public funding.
Engineering students are also concerned about the various changes to OSAP, particularly the shift to a system that distributes a higher ratio of loans to grants. ESSCO hopes that the changes do not affect the accessibility of an engineering education in Ontario, especially among lower income students.
ESSCO is also disappointed with the elimination of the six month grace period to pay back student loans without interest. According to Stats Canada data, only 38% of graduating students gain employment within the Engineering field, and most take many months to find employment in other fields. The elimination of the interest-free grace period will have a substantial negative financial impact on the majority of Ontario engineering student graduates.
The effect of an online opt-out option for all non-essential non-tuition fees on ESSCO member engineering societies is troublesome. ESSCO strives to ensure that all engineering students continue to have access to the essential services provided by their individual school engineering societies. ESSCO Vice President, Logan McFadden, states that “Engineering Societies provide academic support, accountability for larger organizations such as their faculty and administration, and provide representation on a local and provincial scale. They also foster a sense of community and develop their students on a professional and leadership level.” First year undergraduate students are unaware of the role their student society provide until after they begin their studies.
ESSCO acts as a liaison to the provincial government and relevant stakeholders in engineering education. Reduced student member fees will diminish ESSCO’s capacity to provide the benefits that it currently offers, and negatively impact the entire engineering undergraduate body.
ESSCO hopes to work with the Government of Ontario to fully understand the implications of these changes and how it adversely impacts our members.