The Carrefour des savoirs is an initiative aimed at the development of graduate students. It is a consortium of five Montreal research centers (CRIR, CREGES, SHERPA, CRIUGM, CReSP). It was set up to improve employment prospects for students, whatever their career plans.
Research work preceded the creation of the Carrefour des savoirs. Various stakeholders (students, researchers, employers, university program directors) were approached to find out more. Here’s an overview of what we’ve learned from all these sources.
Importance of cross-disciplinary skills
Cross-disciplinary skills are a concern for graduate students. However, it seems that for students, the challenge lies more in understanding the knowledge they have acquired and how to translate these skills to enter the job market (CAPRES, 2021).
Studies show that only 20% of doctoral students will work in the academic and research sector (CSE, 2021). The majority of this clientele are preparing for an academic career, yet 80% of them enter the non-academic job market. What’s more, academic culture doesn’t seem to take graduates’ employability realities into account. Academia gives the impression that careers outside academia are a second-best option. Students don’t feel that internships are encouraged by the people who supervise their training.
There are also employability obstacles. Businesses, industries and organizations agree that there is a skills shortage, while some graduates are unable to break into the job market, seemingly identifying a skills mismatch . People with a post-graduate academic profile are often perceived as highly specialized in a single field (which characterizes the lack of employability skills) or under-qualified. The major issue for the majority of students surveyed is the lack of time to attend cross-disciplinary skills training courses or to draw up a career plan.
Universities offer career guidance services. The students surveyed emphasize the lack of time they have to take advantage of these professional development activities. Coaching by a guidance counsellor can help you fine-tune your skills assessment and prepare your individual development plan.
Beyond the services offered, learning by doing remains a powerful means of acquiring professional experience. Whether through internships or mentoring, students have the opportunity to enhance their professional experience. But despite the many opportunities available, the lack of time, opportunity and recognition is holding back the benefits of active learning.
General principles and service offer
To get off to a good start in their professional lives, students need to acquire cross-disciplinary skills. Le Carrefour des savoirs has structured its service offering around three general principles: active learning, learning by doing and a learning culture.
Le Carrefour will encourage the learner to take a skills assessment. Once the assessment has been completed, the student will be able to draw up an individual development plan, and envision several career paths and how to get there.
The Carrefour will be able to guide the student through the university’s existing cross-disciplinary skills training activities. What’s more, the Carrefour des savoirs team will be able to suggest relevant resources to facilitate enlightened guidance.
Carrefour des savoirs will promote the work placements offered by FRQ-S and MITACS. Carrefour will hold information sessions to clarify the administrative aspects of bursaries related to these programs. In addition, the Carrefour will work with employers to solicit partnerships to expand existing internship opportunities.
In the coming year, Carrefour des savoirs will offer its mentoring program to facilitate access to mentors for graduate research students. It will encourage graduates to give back to their peers. This voluntary, non-hierarchical learning relationship enables the informal transmission of knowledge and expertise.
The Carrefour’s service offering will evolve as it takes off. Among other things, new skills will be added to include entrepreneurship and wellness.
Funded by the FRQ-S
 Rapport des besoins – Programme Tremplin, Consortium (CRIR,CREGES,CRIUGM,CReSP,SHERPA), 2022