Unearthing opportunities in the geosciences

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Participating high school students will be eligible for credit to explore their planet, and future careers, under a new partnership between the University of Waterloo and the Waterloo Region District School Board.

Photo of Mario Coniglio with students

Students who complete the requirements for the Grade 12 university-level earth and space science course will receive a university half credit if they decide to attend Waterloo for their undergraduate studies.

This is the first such joint venture in Ontario to provide an advanced standing dual credit option for high school students across an entire board.

This program is an innovative way to increase student awareness about the geosciences," says Richard Vollans, recruitment and marketing co-ordinator in the Faculty of Science. "It will better prepare students for university and encourage them to explore the broad career opportunities available in earth and environmental sciences."

The initiative comes at a time when there's a growing shortage of geoscientists in Canada. A geoscientist studies the Earth's physical makeup and history, gathering and interpreting data about the Earth in order to increase understanding and improve the quality of life. Geoscientists record and observe changes in the diversity of life, determine where, when, and how mineral deposits have formed, and locate non-renewable energy resources for the future.

A major study by the Mining Industry Training and Adjustment Council reports up to 81,000 professionals will be needed to meet future demands in the geosciences sector in Canada.

"I was surprised to learn that there is such a demand for geoscientists in Canada," says Heather Bond, a dual credit applicant and a grade 12 student from Grand River Collegiate Institute. "I am looking forward to pursuing a science degree in a field where the career possibilities are substantial."

Preparing this program was very much a collaborative effort.

We reached out to various industry partners and worked with Waterloo Region District School Board consultant Ron Hoekstra and superintendent Mark Harper to develop a high school curriculum that would be enhanced by university-level material," Vollans says.

Today, the course is well established in the secondary school system and Waterloo's Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences is providing teachers with online lectures and other enhanced resources so they can have as much background information as required.

Students began registering and enrolling in the program in September," says Mario Coniglio, associate dean of undergraduate studies and professor of earth and environmental sciences. "We are excited the University of Waterloo is able to offer this unique option to local students, allowing them to pursue a potential career in the geosciences, an industry that is in high demand.