Oshawa wants to get creative in convincing college students to remain here after graduation


Published June 24, 2022 at 11:16 am

Calling it a “good business investment,” the City of Oshawa has thrown its support behind an idea to welcome incoming students at the city’s three post-secondary schools at an annual event in September, with the goal of making the students comfortable enough to want to stay after graduation.

Ontario Tech came up with the idea during 2022 student orientation planning when a survey provided “compelling feedback” that new students would value an improved introduction and connection to Oshawa.

The Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Oshawa Business Alliance were then brought into the discussion and Chamber CEO Jason King was at Oshawa Council Monday to look for support for the event, which would take place downtown during the first weekend after Labour Day and would welcome students from all three of Oshawa’s post-secondary institutions: Ontario Tech University, Durham College and Trent University Durham GTA.

“The strategic view of this event is to look at 2022 as ‘Year One’ of an annual event, which would have the ultimate goal and long-term effect of introducing students to local business and cultural activities to make Oshawa feel more like home, perhaps permanently, for the students,” King explained.

The event would include a welcome of students at Civic Square (or other downtown City property) to convey the message ‘thank you for choosing Oshawa; we welcome you and we choose you too’ with an address from local leaders and activations and information displays, as well as ‘culturejamming,’ with event partners tasked with creating unique culinary, cultural or recreational experiences for the new students.

A final event at a large facility in the form of a music performance would cap off the day.

Oshawa Councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri thought the event was a great idea. “It’s about making Oshawa not just their student home but their future home.” Fellow Councillor Rick Kerr, who represents downtown, agreed, calling it a “great collaborative effort.”

“I hope the students get a good enough introduction with this that they want to stay.”

King said the inaugural event would ideally take place the weekend of September 9-11, beginning with a late morning gathering in Memorial Park to welcome the students to town with an address from the mayor and other local leaders. Programming in the park will include performances from the bandshell stage, but the park will also feature activities from local businesses, cultural/regional clubs and restaurants. Project partners would create and operate “culturejamming” type activations in their locations where they offer unique experiences such as chefs riffing on each other’s signature dishes for service in an unusual environment (such as downtown’s indoor archery range) amid an art exhibit or musical performance.

Businesses with an appetite for hiring student labour could also connect via a dedicated job fair area, he added. “Over time, this portion of the event will evolve to include the celebration of impactful outcomes that have resulted from introductions that originated during previous years of the event.”

The final event would take place at a large facility capable of hosting and managing a large crowd, such as the Regent Theatre, Biltmore or the Tribute Communities Centre, “or perhaps evolve into a multiplicity of wrap-up events at multiple venues.”

All three Oshawa post-secondary schools have already written letters of support with the City being asked to provide in-kind services such as security and free use of venues such as the Bandshell and Memorial Park.

“A successful year one provides us all with a platform to iterate our way to a better and more self sustaining event in future years,” noted King, “including through the application for external grant funding from other levels of government.”

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