In 2013, the University of Waterloo saw an opportunity to expand its Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) Programs to all students, not just those in the famous co-operative education programs.

Taking notice of the needs of students whose learning path did not include co-op, the University began designing a certificate program for traditional programs of study where students could develop their professional skills, explore their career options and learn how to market themselves to employers.

In September of 2017, the EDGE program was launched.

In Waterloo’s 2020-2025 strategic plan, talent development continues to remain central to the University’s vision. In a future that promises great opportunity and waves of disruption, the EDGE program is one of Waterloo’s many experiential education opportunities helping to prepare students to be creative and resilient leaders in a changing, complex world.

Ben McDonald, manager of Work-Integrated Learning, believes that the program gives students a unique advantage.

“EDGE enables students to have career clarity: better understand themselves and their abilities,” says McDonald. “This collaborative program allows non-co-op students opportunities to build upon their employability while expanding their skills and knowledge. Enrollment continues to grow year after year, and I am excited for the future of Work-Integrated Learning at Waterloo.”

What gives students the EDGE?

The EDGE program features six main milestones that participants must complete:

  • A skills workshop, where students can articulate and practice communicating their skills
  • A career development course, where students develop core career-seeking abilities
  • Three work or community experiences, which allow for experiential learning and personal growth
  • A capstone workshop, giving students the chance to synthesize their learning and create a post-graduation plan

EDGE is flexible, allowing students to complete these milestones in almost any order at any point in their degree, and draws students from across campus, including the faculties of Arts, Environment, Health, Mathematics and Science. EDGE’s enrolment has doubled since the program’s start, currently sitting at 750 students, having awarded a total of 119 certificates. This translates to the completion of a notable 1800 milestones since the certificate’s inception.

Fourth-year Mathematics student Tania Belimova has found extreme value in the EDGE program: professionally and personally.

“By being part of EDGE, I’ve learned more about myself and my interests, all while gaining incredible work experience,” says Belimova. “As I completed my milestones, I discovered what I am truly passionate about, project management, which I want to continue to pursue in my graduate studies.”

Belimova cites both the Skills identification and articulation workshop and her second work experience at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture as a Data Analyst as pivotal moments in her academic journey.

Also an EDGE Ambassador Team Lead, Belimova wants students to know just how supportive, welcoming and helpful the EDGE community is.

“The EDGE program gives you a sense of belonging. I’ve found some of my really good friends here. In my experience, I have found that those affiliated with EDGE are extremely friendly and really care about your personal growth.”

Four years into operation, EDGE continues to help students discover who they are and the impact they can make: one workshop, one experience, one course, one capstone one milestone at a time. Waterloo understands that preparing talent for a future of unknown contexts requires an integrated learning environment. EDGE students are entering the workforce ready to embrace an uncertain, yet compelling, tomorrow.