SDS 496R - Applied Apprenticeship

Experience is the hardest teacher - it gives you the test first, and the lesson afterward.

Oscar Wilde

SDS 496R: Applied Apprenticeship provides third and fourth-year SDS-major students with an opportunity for unpaid experience in an applied/real-world setting.

What to expect

The course consists of two components:

  1. Practical Experience: spend 6-8 hours per week (over 10 weeks) gaining applied experience in a local agency/organization. Past placements have included Big Brothers Big Sisters, Strong Start, The Centre for Community Based Research, Kids Ability, The Working Centre, The Volunteer Action Centre, local elementary schools, and more.
  2. In-class Learning: students meet bi-weekly as a group with the course instructor to set learning goals, discuss issues arising from their apprenticeship, reflect on challenges, and present their experiences and outcomes. 

This course is offered on a credit/non-credit (CR/NCR) basis only - ensure that this will not be a problem for your degree 50%-rule requirements.

Students who opt to do an SDS specialization may be able to take this course towards requirements, provided the topic studied fits with the chosen specialization. Subject to department approval.

Next Offering

Intended to run in Winter 2024 (January - April), as public health conditions allow.


  • Typically reserved for SDS Major students
  • Level at least 3A
  • Department consent required via application
  • FYI: space is limited


  • Submit the SDS 496R Application Form by the applicable deadline  

    • Read the Notes sidebar section first!
    • Form link above will not be live until applications are being accepted for a future offering.
  • Receive an email in early October if you are selected for a brief interview with the course instructor.
  • Sign-up for an available interview timeslot (details provided in the email).
  • A successful applicant will be notified and manually enrolled in SDS 496R by the SDS Department for the applicable term.
  • Subsequent tasks may be necessary pending placement requirements (e.g. obtain a vulnerable persons screening or criminal record check).

Student perspectives 

What was the most valuable "take-away" experience from your placement?

  • Learning the difference between a job and a career
  • Ability to be an educator and role model
  • Witnessing progress in clients
  • De-stigmatizing my personal assumptions
  • Being the person others sought out to listen
  • Exploring out my comfort zone and pushing my old limits
  • Seeing passion in others
  • Building rapport
  • Being able to establish new services to help UW students 
  • Allow yourself to be a better learner
  • Tied academic learning to hands-on experience
  • Seeing weaknesses turn into strengths
  • Facilitating connection into the workforce
  • Networking with influential individuals in my field
  • Rolling out presentation Ontario wide
  • Learning novel ways to educate
  • Seeing their (clients) face light up
  • Feeling empowered and excited
  • Enhance my communication and organizational skills
  • I learned how to recruit volunteers and participants

~from SDS 496R students 

Jessica Cragg

"Foster parents receive lots of training before accepting a foster child into their home, but what kind of preparation do their biological children get? I took this question to my applied apprenticeship at the Children's Aid Society, where I started a support program that helps biological children adjust to the impact of being a foster family."

- SDS Alumna Jessica Cragg, Family Service Worker, Family and Children's Services of Waterloo Region

"I really enjoyed taking [the course] because it consisted of two components. The apprenticeship component gave me the opportunity to work in the community and apply the skills I have learned in class to an organization. My placement... allowed me to enhance my communication and organizational skills... and taught me how to design a program with goals and objectives for a specific target audience. The seminar... taught students how to develop learning goals and gave students the opportunity to discuss issues arising from their apprenticeship... the course is an excellent opportunity for students to learn new skills and apply existing skills to an organization."  

- Claudia Frias, Waterloo Regional Homes


During her time at Extend-a-Family, Lauren worked with individuals with learning disabilities for the first time in her life. It was an experience she hadn’t anticipated, but she quickly came to enjoy it. By trying something new, Lauren was exposed to an area of social service that she hadn’t been aware of. The experience pushed Lauren to learn about herself as a service provider, an employee, and a citizen of society.

Because the position is unpaid, the experience is all about learning. Students are allowed to make mistakes and much of the pressure is self inflicted. Lauren was allowed to create her own self-directed experience, delving into aspects of the position that she found interesting and requesting new work when she was eager to learn more. The hands-on experience that Lauren gained highlighted an entirely new career path - one that she is now seriously considering thanks to the Applied Apprenticeship course.

"My placement...taught me the vast amount of work that is involved in constructing a community program from the ground up. I had the opportunity to work with First United Church to help develop their "Food and Friends at First" program which caters to frail elderly... I learned how to recruit volunteers and participants, to receive feedback and adapt programs to run them more effectively, to obtain required items for the program, to network with interested organizations and reflect upon experiences effectively. In class I related my own experience to [those] of my classmates and found many similarities. Differences allowed me to expand my own knowledge of the broad social work field."  

- Melinda Goertz, First United Church

Margaret Girodat

Margaret loved that she had a say in where she was placed for her Applied Apprenticeship. Once she was accepted into the program, she had the opportunity to meet with her professor and talk about her interests and career goals. These were used to find her a placement: in a kindergarten class at Keats Way Public School.

This experience tied academic learning to hands-on experience. Teaching is something that Margaret had been considering as a career path, and this opportunity allowed her to gain some real skills in the field. It was also a practical application of the Education specialization that she’s working toward in her degree.

Spending time with kindergarten aged children taught Margaret to think on her feet and prepare for the unexpected – both skills that she can apply to whichever career path she chooses.

- Margaret Girodat, UWaterloo Coordinator - New Student Transition

Course coordinator

Jim Perretta

Dr. Jim Perretta is the course coordinator for SDS 496R: Applied Apprenticeship. Jim teaches a number of other SDS courses centered on psychology concepts and well-being, and maintains a clinical private practice. 

Learn more about Jim on his profile and hear him speak about self-compassion with an SDS alumna on a recent Distress and Crisis Ontario podcast

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