Venture for Canada’s Fellowship Program has grown into a well regarded and highly sought after program since the organization began five years ago. It is a two-year fellowship program for recent graduates looking to develop entrepreneurial skills, join a diverse and supportive community, and gain work experience in startups across Canada. Now, thanks to $4.4 million in funding from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESCD), the organization is branching out with a new program, the Atlantic Internship Program, to support post-secondary students.
“The goal of the program is to cast the net a little wider by introducing students to the entrepreneurial ecosystem earlier in their careers,” says Gina Patterson, Director of the Atlantic Internship Program at Venture for Canada’s Halifax office. “We’re a training organization, and we provide extensive support to both participants and businesses, so it’s an engaged process.” She says the long-term goal of the program is to increase workforce attachment to the local economy. “For us, the definition of entrepreneurship is broad. Students don’t necessarily have to start a business, but they need to have the skillsets that the future economy requires, such as adaptability, teamwork, and creativity, and the ability to find the resources they need to do new and different jobs we haven’t seen yet.”
The program kicked off July 6-8 with Venture for Canada’s inaugural Innovation Jam. Students who attended the event, as well as others who applied for the program, were considered in the first Atlantic Internship Program cohort. The cohort began their internships last month.
“The intention of the Innovation Jam was to bring students from around the region to work together in teams to solve a problem,” says Gina. The first Innovation Jam challenge was to create a brand and marketing strategy for the Atlantic Internship Program. Organized like a hackathon, teams had 48 hours to come up with a solution and pitch it to a panel of local industry professionals. Gina says the weekend was also interspersed with professional development and training opportunities, keynote speakers, and workshops.
“It went incredibly well. The pitches were very high quality,” says Gina. “Some of them said it was the best professional experience they’ve ever had.” She says that 45 students attended, 50% of whom were women, which was a personal goal of Gina’s. They represented post-secondary institutions across the Atlantic provinces. Several of the participants shared with her that the event confirmed that entrepreneurship was the right path for them.
“Some of the participants in the Atlantic Internship Program cohorts are pulled from attendees of the Jam. It has nothing to do with who won,” Gina adds, “but with how they acted throughout, and what skillsets we saw them demonstrate.
The first cohort began mid-September with 28 students starting internships with companies around the region. Venture for Canada is actively recruiting companies looking for one or two of these highly sought-after students for a January start. Interested businesses should contact them to learn more. “The program is open to any business between 1-500 employees, regardless of field or industry as long as an aspect of their work fits in the innovation space. If you’re curious, get in touch.”
Taking advantage of experiential learning opportunities such as this has the potential to reap many benefits for both the student and the business. “If a company is really good at harnessing the creativity of their students, they will be able to find creative new ways of looking at their business. The way I encourage them to do this is to allow their students to shadow senior meetings and have a discussion offline about what they’re noticing. There are immediate outcomes when students are given the opportunity to show their best selves and grow. I know the businesses that work with these students will be better because of them.”
Venture for Canada’s Atlantic Internship Program is just one of the many examples of experiential learning. The Halifax Partnership’s Experiential Learning Initiative can support your business in creating experiential learning opportunities for students. To learn more, contact Julie Weir at email@example.com.