WaterlooWorks delayed almost two years

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Students will not be seeing a new system to aid in their co-op job hunt this fall. A two-year delay was announced in July for the project to replace JobMine called WaterlooWorks. The new deployment date for WaterlooWorks is now Winter 2017.

The new system continues to be tested by the architecture students, who have had access to it since spring 2014. This group of students were chosen for the trial since they are the only ones who can apply for their jobs.

Dianne Bader, director of operations at co-operative education and career action (CECA), explained that while the system was working well for architecture students, scaling the system up from a small part of campus to the full campus was one of the challenges being faced by the project.

“Some of it is, for the same reason we can make this work for architecture, 300 students, that is not a problem, but we have 7,000,” said Bader. “Even updating a status once you are employed, updating a status and taking you out of the pool for the rest of the employers is not an automated thing in the system.”

CECA is working with an external vendor to develop WaterlooWorks. While this vendor has provided software for other co-op programs, Bader noted that UW provided some unique challenges.

“Waterloo is different because we are the largest program in the world. It just adds a level of complexity in absolutely everything we look at or configure, [such as] in process work — how the system works right through to posting cycles,” said Bader.

Bader noted that “we are the only school who does some of the stuff that we do — all the scheduling functionality.” Another example of unique requirements for UW was the ability for employers to screen applications. With some jobs receiving up to 800 applications, this is a key functionality that other schools have not found necessary.

The project is also not just replacing JobMine, but also other standalone applications that CECA has. The interface students see does not reflect the full scope of the system that is being built. “The screens that students and employers see is about 25 per cent of the total functionality,” said Bader. “That complexity is stuff that is not obvious to the user.”

Stephane Hamade, Feds vice-president education, is focusing on getting implementation of some of the new features as soon as possible.

“Right now we’re really focusing on making sure that as many of the features that students wanted in WaterlooWorks are implemented in JobMine,” said Hamade. “So we are trying to push for having access to the salary and benefits of the job, the location of the job, and trying to get the one free no-rank.”

CECA is looking into the feasibility of incorporating these features into JobMine and have posted an early assessment on their website. This assessment noted that having job salary and benefits posted was somewhat likely to happen.

“It’s actually a great idea since it helps us get employers online sooner,” said Bader. The assessment also identified having the one free no-rank as “somewhat unlikely” and that it was too early to make a good assessment on adding job locations to the postings.

Other functionality that will help staff provide better support for students is being rolled out as it becomes ready.

“One of the concepts in there for staff is this dashboard that helps put all the information about a student together and lets us identify … who are our students at risk,” said Bader. “This is providing us way more functionality to help students.”

With the delay also comes additional cost, most of which stem from the extension of contracts for people working on the project and covering for UW employees that are on the project. While CECA is run on a cost-recovery basis, with the co-op fee funding the department, this project is being funded centrally out of the provost office. This means that despite the cost increases, the co-op fee will not be affected by it.

“Overall project cost are still reasonable considering the complexity and importance of Waterloo’s co-op program,” said Stephanie Tortorici, project communications specialist at CECA.