Practical learning and diplomas aren’t just for college

Some call it a waste of time to get a general degree in university, without a concrete designation for future employment. But these degrees often get you closer to your goals, and can even lead you to new, professionally-oriented programs that weren’t previously available to you.
For instance, the Professional, Applied and Continuing Education (PACE) programs at the University of Winnipeg open up to you after you’ve done some previous studying.
In its public relations marketing management diploma program, about 75 to 85 per cent of students enrolled already have a degree, and there is no direct entry from high school.
The course was designed to respond to a growing demand for the mixed-role communicator and marketing professional.
“We’re always kind of responding to grads’ success,” says Colleen Little, program coordinator for the professional studies program area.
“In 2009, we added the marketing component to our program, and we saw a significant impact in our statistics.”
A trend in communications jobs is a growing demand for multitaskers; companies often want the same people drafting their press releases, speaking with media, and rolling out social media strategies while analyzing their success.
A program specific to this combination role didn’t exist yet in Winnipeg, and in fact, hasn’t popped up elsewhere in Canada.
“It’s a very unique program,” says Little. The focus is on “preparation and work readiness that you might not see in the degree stream.”
Practical learning is combined with theory in this career-focused program.
The students take social media courses on analytics and strategies, and learn how they fit into a full marketing strategy for a business, and then they produce a marketing plan with these concepts in mind.
Each year, the university submits the students’ crisis communications plans to the Canadian Public Relations Society’s competition to put their work up against those across the country.
Crisis communication is “one of the things you do more than anything else” in the workplace, says Little.
The diploma program’s instructors are all industry professionals, so students are exposed to the most current best practices.
When it comes to mandatory work placements, students aren’t gifted a glitzy corporate communications gig, but have to compete against one another for the job they’re after.
Jobs in government, the arts and culture and not-for-profit sectors, and corporate businesses are all up for grabs – but they have to earn them.
“People come to us from different streams with different long-term goals,” says Little, but “they actually compete in a real job situation.”
The full-time PR and marketing program can be completed in one year or less, allowing students to upgrade their skills without taking too much time away from full-time work.
The applied programs can substantially increase your marketability in your field of choice, allow you to reorient your career, or bring focus to your already completed education with a practical direction for it.
On the flip side, courses in the diploma program can count toward pursuing a degree at the University of Winnipeg, with course equivalents up to 30 credit hours.
After completion of the full-time program, students are eligible to be awarded a public relations diploma, marketing management diploma and management certificate.
Course registration includes Adobe Creative Suite CS4 software, which is instructed in the Graphic Design for Non-Designers course. A course on understanding the design process is also covered as marketing and PR practitioners will often find themselves working alongside professional graphic designers.
Advertising, business, and financial management fundamentals – and even resume and job search techniques – are covered in course content, aiming to prepare job-ready grads for success in a field that’s as multifaceted as the course they just finished.

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