Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2016)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 8, 2015)
Here are some of the reasons why Seneca College was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2016):
- Employees working on campus at Seneca College can stay in shape by taking advantage of a fully-equipped fitness facility, complete with a gymnasium, ice arena, dance studio, beach volleyball and tennis courts and soccer fields
- Seneca College invests in ongoing employee development with generous tuition subsidies for courses taken at outside institutions (up to $15,000)
- Seneca College maintains a Diversity and Equity Office, responsible for education, training, awareness and prevention programs to support the creation of a diverse work environment
Lessons learned: Seneca helps staff make a difference
Fifteen years ago, David Humphrey left a booming information technology industry to join Seneca College as a faculty member. "I'd been interested in teaching, but I wanted to do it at an institution with a broad scale and an applied mandate," says Humphrey.
At first, Humphrey continued to work as a programmer in the private sector while teaching part-time at Seneca. But the college's focus on innovation and student success, in both academic and applied learning, and the support available to faculty and staff, convinced Humphrey that he could make a difference as a teacher and researcher at Seneca.
"Working at Seneca, you can have an impact, do work that has meaning and gives personal satisfaction, build a better world and have time to live in it too," says Bernie Beaulieu, Seneca's Executive Director of Human Resources. "Everything we do at Seneca is geared toward our students, and it's very rewarding. Even in administrative roles, we have the opportunity to improve the lives of students in some way."
This focus on student success at Seneca helped to attract more than 9,500 applicants for just 118 full-time positions at its 10 campuses across Ontario last year.
Humphrey became a full-time faculty member in 2002 and helped, along with several associates, to found the Centre for Development of Open Technology (CDOT) at Seneca. Since then, he has collaborated with industry not only to conduct research in open-source technology, but also to share industry expertise with students in the classroom.
In Humphrey's program, students have contributed code work to the Firefox web browser, created by Mozilla, and improved Mozilla's open technology, helping to set standards adopted by Google, Apple and Microsoft. More than 10 of Humphrey's graduates have joined Mozilla full-time, while others have found positions with large companies such as Microsoft and Google and at small technology startups in Toronto.
In 2014, Seneca further increased its support of innovation by opening Seneca HELIX, an incubator for both students and the external community that supports entrepreneurship in all sectors, focusing on the development of health and lifestyle products and services.
With more than 27,500 full-time students, Seneca attracts a widely diverse student body. "I have students in my classes from Jordan, India, Thailand - all over the world," says Humphrey. This diversity is reflected in Seneca's faculty and staff, as well, who collectively speak 118 different languages including Mandarin, Cantonese, French, Spanish, Hindi, Persian and Arabic.
For Humphrey, Seneca's supportive environment has enabled him to remain on the leading edge of his field for more than a decade. With the college providing 37 weeks of parental leave top-up for fathers, for example, Humphrey has had time to participate in the arrival of his two daughters.
The college also offers research sabbaticals and regular breaks in the school year, along with generous benefits programs and fitness facilities.
Seneca employees are encouraged to keep learning as well through its Leadership and Employee Development Office, which helps fund professional development, including tuition assistance.
That support has produced dividends for everyone. Humphrey recently became the first college professor to receive a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Synergy Award for Innovation by the Governor General of Canada David Johnston. The prize includes a $100,000 research grant that will support further research by Humphrey and his team related to Firefox.
"The calibre of the talent already here definitely appeals to people who are looking to join our team," says Beaulieu.