Request for proposals for the WatPD program


The Engineering Curriculum Committee (ECC) is requesting proposals for the development of a new course that focuses on tactics for workplace success.

This course will be the first core PD course that Engineering students take, and should develop an understanding that the workplace involves a lot more than just the application of technical knowledge. The course should emphasize the importance of soft/professional skills and help students to develop the habit of assessing and setting goals for their soft skills, just as they do for their technical skills. The course should be tactical rather than strategic, dealing with practical professional development topics that might be encountered in a first co-op term.

Proposed course outcomes include:

  • Students will be able to define professional development and compare the nature of technical skill development with that of soft professional skill development
  • Students will be able to explain the importance of professional development in engineering 
  • Students will develop the habit of pro-actively assessing their workplace and professional skills to determine the type of professional development that is most needed

Additional information

The Waterloo Professional Development (WatPD) Program aims to improve the professional skills of Waterloo’s students through the delivery of dynamic and engaging online courses. Recognizing that the workplace provides an opportunity for real world professional skill development and application, the PD courses serve to provide a theoretical foundation for students. The courses also provide an opportunity for students to make connections between what they are experiencing in work or volunteer experiences and the PD course content.

The ECC has created recommendations for the course content, as follows:

Units 1-2

  • Welcome to your first co-op term and first PD course
  • Position the WatPD-Engineering program as part of the overall Engineering curriculum
  • What is professional development, why is it important, and how does it compare to technical skill development? Soft skills and transferrable and long-term, whereas technical skills can quickly become outdated. Soft skills are more difficult to measure, however.
  • Scope of professional development topics: communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, etc.
  • Introduce the idea that everyone should have plans for both hard technical and soft professional skills development. This course focuses on the tactics of workplace success, whereas strategic goal setting for professional skills is the focus of Course 2.
  • Introduce students to tips and resources for dealing with stress and coping with pressure.

Very important “a-ha moment”:

  • Convincingly argue that everyone can benefit by further development of soft skills. 

  • Do clever surveys to show that people overestimate their abilities, especially when it comes to soft skills (e.g., 90% of people think they are more honest than the average person).

  • Other resources to convince students:  Video snippets from senior students and alumni and people from famous engineering firms. Possibly input from CEAB/PEO.

Units 3-7

Making opportunities and dealing with challenges in the workplace:

  • Give an idea of the breadth of non-technical opportunities and challenges that can be encountered in the workplace. Students will choose from a list of possible topics (see ideas below) that are most relevant to them, their level of experience, and their current workplace.
  • Students get lessons and tips and narratives, possibly case studies, and students submit reflective assessments, on how to deal with their top 5 opportunities or challenges  [reflective assessments include analysis on how soft skills play a big role in dealing with the opportunity or challenge]
Examples of possible topics, in no particular order:
  • How to prepare for a work term evaluation or a conversation about performance.
  • How to learn from a work term that isn't enjoyable or relevant to your career plans.
  • How to ask for more work, or more challenging work, when you feel underused.
  • How to handle situations where you feel overworked or underqualified.
  • How to work with an absent boss or a boss too busy to meet with you.
  • How to figure out what skills and attitudes your boss values.
  • How to prepare for workplace meetings.
  • How to determine what's appropriate to order at a lunch meeting.
  • How to work with someone you don't work well with.
  • How to make connections and network.
  • How to assess the culture of the workplace and fit in.
  • How to give and receive constructive feedback.
  • How to ask for time off.
  • How to wisely use flex time.
  • How to deal with inappropriate comments from your boss.
  • How to handle co-workers or team members who aren't doing their fair share of work.
  • How to handle a job that's different from what was advertised.
  • How to use and misuse personal smartphones and wearables in a workplace.
  • How to learn about workplace ethics, code of conduct, and safety (e.g. what to do if you've been asked to do something at work that you think is unsafe).
  • How to communicate professionally by email, in meetings, and on the phone.
  • How to communicate with non-technical people.
  • How to navigate workplace politics.
  • What to do if you make a mistake at work.
  • How to deal with bad news, stress, and toxic work environments.

Unit 8

Students look back at the 5 topics and draw conclusions about the importance of professional development.  They can identify some of the challenges of soft skills development.

Unit 9

Tips for what to do at the end of each co-op job:  

  • final work-term evaluation and asking your supervisor for honest feedback
  • saying thank you and goodbye
  • cleaning up your office space
  • keeping connected (remember that your supervisor and co-workers are now a part of your network)
  • asking about other opportunities at the company for which you might be eligible for future work terms (try to get a firm commitment if you want one)
  • update your resume to incorporate this latest work-term experience
  • ethics of keeping confidentiality

Unit 10

  • Final reflection on the important of soft skill development
  • What’s next in Course 2:  a critical thinking approach to strategically planning your own professional development.

The course should be designed to integrate with the WatPD program. WatPD program objectives and course details can be found on the WatPD website.

Proposal requirements

Submit a résumé and a 4–6 page proposal that adheres to the guidelines for the development of WatPD courses (see Appendix A below) and includes at least the following information:

  1. A brief description of how the learning outcomes will be addressed and how the course supports the development of professional skills.
  2. A week-by-week (10 week) outline/syllabus with topics.
  3. A brief outline of a sample unit with activities, readings, assignments and marking keys.
  4. An example of how reflection will be incorporated in the course.
  5. A description of previous experience in developing and/or delivering courses on this and/or similar topics.
  6. A description of previous teaching experience with university students.
  7. A description of previous experience in developing online courses.

Proposals that include group work components must discuss how group work contributes to the course objectives and should describe how non-participation will be addressed.

Authors of shortlisted proposals will be asked to prepare a 10 minute presentation on their proposal. Presentations will occur during the Fall 2018 term.

Additional notes

  • The University will have exclusive and unrestricted right to use and to modify the course as necessary to meet the needs of the WatPD program.
  • Author(s) must be employed at the University of Waterloo and have relevant teaching experience.
  • Redesign and/or revisions may be required during the design review, and following the first offer of the course.
  • There will be remuneration for the development of the content and for assuming the responsibilities of an instructor. Contact Erin Smith ( for details.

Deadline for proposals:

August 31, 2018

Presentations of shortlisted proposals:

Fall 2018

Submit proposals to:

Erin Smith, Associate Director, WatPD (