Decision-making on graduate practica and internship requirements

When programs are making decisions regarding practica/internship requirements in relation to COVID-19 concerns, they are encouraged to deal with placements in the following order (with potential for a hybrid of options):

  1. Conduct remotely when possible as judged by the university and external partner. If not possible, either initiate in person approval process* or proceed to next options;
  2. Replace with alternative practical learning, such as addressing external stakeholders’ case-specific or agency-level problems within an academic setting;
  3. Replace with another academic element or deferred to a later academic term.
  4. Not conduct placement and requirement waived by the offering program.

* Currently, there are limits on the in person activities required of students. Given this, students engaging in external practica/internships, which necessitate physically being within the placement facility/location, will need to have the placement vetted to ensure that there are appropriate safety protocols in place.

Process documentation for programs with required practica and internships

Who would this apply to: Within the University there are a number programs that have required practicum or internship placements, including, but not limited to, those of accredited professional programs for which their students’ practicum placements are regulated by a professional body. In these circumstances, programs can seek permission for their students to be on placement sites (i.e., “in person”) by outlining their procedures. This process would not apply to graduate co-op programs, nor would it apply to placements where student activities are fully remote.

The process by which these programs may seek approval for students’ placements is as follows:

  1. Program Director / Department Chair writes memo including the following:
    1. Explanation as to why placements are essential to the training of the students.
    2. Number of students on placements.
    3. Locations and time frames of placements for that term (including placements on UWaterloo campus). Whether the placement is paid or unpaid should be indicated. Placements where students will be in direct contact with clients/patients should be highlighted as such. If it is the case that multiple students are at the same placement site, the information provided can be organized by placement setting rather than individual students.
    4. Professional/licensing body that regulates professional activity of students/supervisors on the placement – and current recommendations of this organization (if relevant). As well, programs should indicate the degree of training and supervision provided on each site.
    5. Insurance coverage of students on the placements. Confirm how the program will determine that students have workers compensation/accident insurance coverage for every placement (e.g., through using the Letter to Student Employers and Student Declaration, as found on the Safety Office website), in particular for those placements not covered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
    6. Explicit mention as to how their program ensures each placement setting has safety protocols in place for students that meet Public Health Guidelines (physical distancing measures, emergency contacts, personal protective equipment (PPE)). Programs need to provide confirmation that a formal review of the safety protocols at the site will be completed at the time the placement starts for each student (e.g., through a review of the Pre-placement Due Diligence Checklist and the Pre-placement Safety Checklist for students, as found on the Safety Office website).
    7. Explicit mention as to how students are being kept up-to-date as to Public Health advisories and Waterloo Safety Office guidelines (Waterloo’s COVID-19 information websiteWaterloo Safety Office; Region of Waterloo Public Health)
    8. Indication as to how students who experience COVID-related symptoms will be instructed to respond, including required reporting.
    9. Explicit mention as to how the program is accommodating students who do not wish to be on a practicum during this time and/or do not wish to engage in activities within the practicum placement for which they are not comfortable.
  2. Completed memo is sent to the Faculty Associate Dean, Graduate Studies for review and approval.
  3. Memo with endorsement from Faculty Associate Dean, Graduate Studies is sent to the Faculty Dean for review and signature.
  4. Signed memo is sent to Jeff Casello, Associate Vice-President, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs for review and approval.

The program is notified of approval to begin student placements.

Process documentation for individual students requesting practicum placement

Some programs offer students the option to engage in internships or practica. In these cases, individual students with support of their program directors or supervisors may seek approval for an external placement. If a program has been given program-level approval (as per process above), individual students do not need to submit individual forms. The process described here is for those situations where program-wide approval is not already in place.

In this case, the process shall be:

  1. Student completes the Practica and Internship request with input, as appropriate, from the student’s program director / practicum supervisor(s).  As indicated on the form (in greater detail), student needs to provide:
    1. Locations and time frames of placement for that term (and whether placement is paid or unpaid). A placement where a student will be in direct contact with clients/patients should be highlighted as such.
    2. Rationale for request to engage in the activity. That is, how placement is important for program requirements / professional training.  
    3. Safety precautions that will be followed within the practicum/internship setting (see the Pre-placement Due Diligence Checklist and the Pre-placement Safety Checklist for students, as found on the Safety Office website).
    4. If it is an unpaid placement, confirmation of workers compensation/accident insurance; see the Letter to Student Employers and Student Declaration, as found on the Safety Office website.
  1. On signing the form, the student will be confirming that:
    1. The practicum is integral for academic and/or professional training
    2. That they are aware of safety protocols and precautions within the setting, and know who to contact if an issue should arise.
    3. That they will follow all guidelines regulating their behaviour (from the setting, Public Health, and, if applicable, from their professional regulations)
    4. That they have insurance coverage for this placement
    5. That they will immediately contact local public health authority for medical support and inform program director or department chair if they contract COVID-related illness, at the soonest possible time.
  2. Completed form is sent to the student’s Program Director/Associate Chair, Graduate Studies for review and approval.
  3. Signed form is sent to the Faculty Associate Dean, Graduate Studies for review and approval.
  4. Signed form is sent to Jeff Casello, Associate Vice-President, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs for review and approval.
  5. Student is notified of approval.

Questions about the practica/internship process can be sent to Liz Nilsen, Assistant Vice-President, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs.