Virtual Internship Program (VIP) benefits students and communities

Although Sheridan's Virtual Internship Program (VIP) was created last spring to provide work-integrated learning opportunities during the pandemic, the revolutionary initiative already promises to have a lasting impact on both our students and communities.

Whether it was through a facilitated 10-week interdisciplinary project in the VIP's innovation accelerator stream or working independently, hundreds of Sheridan degree students had the unique chance to virtually assist external partners in resolving a variety of important challenges. Among the many highlights was the creation of a system of refrigerated lockers located near public transit access points that could be opened physically, verbally or digitally, providing Halton food recovery program Food for Life with a safer, more accessible and sustainable way to distribute food to those in need.

Other community partners in the innovation accelerator included:

The educational arm of one of the world’s largest technology companies, which sought help maintaining and improving connections between educators and young learners during the pandemic.

The Sheridan Centre for Elder Research, which was looking for ways to use innovative technology to enhance older citizens’ access to and engagement in the creative performing arts.

Sheridan’s Galvanizing Education Task Force, which strives to reimagine innovative ways in which higher education experiences are delivered for years to come.

Honours Bachelor of Craft and Design (Industrial Design) students Sarah Butt and Shelby MacTavish found a different way to enjoy a rewarding internship.

Working remotely, the duo dedicated more than 300 hours towards designing the front foyer area, a sensory room and a donor wall of a new state-of-the-art building for the Sunrise Therapeutic Riding & Learning Centre, a 102-acre equestrian facility that provides therapy and programming for children and adults with special needs. Butt and MacTavish chose materials that were appropriate for Sunrise patrons, including colours that promoted a sense of calm and furniture that had rounded edges. "After learning about Sunrise's inspirational mission and the plans for this project, we were immediately on board," MacTavish said.

In fact, community partners, students and faculty all see value in Sheridan continuing to offer virtual internship opportunities beyond the conclusion of the pandemic. "The VIP has proven to be a very successful and enriching experience. It's remarkable how quickly our students and partners adapted to the 'new normal'," said Sheridan co-op adviser Julie Nichols. "Employers continue to emphasize work ethic, self-discipline, adaptability and communication as essential skills for working remotely while also remaining in a team environment, and these acquired skills are huge assets for our students and graduates going forward."

Sheridan students Sarah Butt (left) and Shelby MacTavish

Two perspective drawings of the front foyer, created in Revit

"What really amazed me was the depth of caring that led to the students going one step beyond," said Graham Hill, Food for Life Executive Director. "Kudos to the faculty at Sheridan for inspiring that love of learning and the desire to ask questions and not be afraid to push the envelope, because that is what will make our society better."

Artist Susan Strachan-Johnston's rendering of proposed plan ­­­– 2019

Pictures of outdoor space at Sunrise Therapeutic Riding & Learning Centre, taken from the site visit