NBCC has always been attuned to industry needs. The college prioritizes programs and courses that equip students with highly sought-after skills in the industry. At the end of their programs, students embark on work practicums with companies where they experience real-world application of the knowledge acquired.
This process has been rewarding. However, the demands in several industries go beyond the end-of-program practicum. Also, the internships were unpaid, yet some employers felt that the students did such good work and were willing to provide some compensation.
Karen Campbell, a Coordinating Instructor for NBCC business programs and now an Experiential Learning Champion with the Department of Research, Innovation, and Experiential Education, believes that students should have multiple touchpoints with industry. Students need more opportunities to practice their skills and become familiar with industry practices.
Thankfully, some industry partners also shared these thoughts. One of them is Tom Batty, Co-Founder of Terris EI, a technology company with a vision to “deliver earth intelligence to help make healthier decisions about developing our planet and improving the safety of people.” Over most of the last decade, Batty led the Canadian Army Learning Support Centre. As the commanding officer, he engaged
NBCC students and graduates on paid internships with the 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown (CFB Gagetown) through the Applied Studies Internship Program.
As a leader at Terris EI, Batty worked with Campbell to engage NBCC students as interns with the company.
Campbell recalls the memorable conversation with Batty: “we talked about how our practicum is unpaid and how he would love to have access to students way before the end of their program.”
While these discussions continued, a student in the IT program, McKenzie Storey, contacted Campbell and requested to be connected to a company where he could intern during the summer.
According to Campbell, McKenzie was ready to volunteer to get that learning opportunity. Campbell connected him to Terris EI, where he worked all summer. Although he started as a volunteer, Terris EI converted his role to a paid internship as soon as funding was secured.
McKenzie Storey currently works with Terris EI as a software engineer. His summer internship success in 2020 was proof that the industry would thrive with programs like the FLEX internship.
The FLEX Internship Pilot Program officially launched less than two years later.
The FLexible educational EXperience internships allows students to work with industry partners at different points during their program. Instead of waiting for the end-of-program practicum, they can work part-time during the fall and winter terms and full-time during the summer breaks.
The FLEX internship program is a straightforward solution to a significant challenge for industry partners. Tom Batty summarizes this challenge thus: “how can we as employers more directly ease the financial burden of post-secondary students while also providing experiential learning that accelerates their path to full employment?”
This internship program is unique because it immensely benefits every party involved.
International students represent about 40% of NBCC’s student population. Upon arrival, many of these students take up part-time jobs in their communities to support themselves through school. Many of these students have skills needed by employers in industries related to their chosen programs. However, they lack the information and networking to connect them to these companies. FLEX internships enable both Canadian and international students to communicate with businesses that need their skills and get paid for part-time or full-time work.
Another party that benefits immensely from this program is the employer. Small businesses in New Brunswick may not have the financial resources required to hire their talent. FLEX internship addresses this challenge by providing at least half of the funding needed to compensate the students through the Mitacs Business Strategy Internship program while the company provides the remaining portion. This arrangement ensures the best talents in the province are accessible to budding businesses.
For the first cycle, the College was approved for 18 Mitacs Business Strategy Internship units. Students work part-time through the winter term, switching to full-time work for their practicum. The second cycle potentially has first-year students working through the summer break and continuing part-time during the fall term.
Campbell couldn’t be more excited about the project, as it’s a dream come true for her:
“Someday, when I am retired, I want to look back and see a college system where experiential and flexible internship learning is the default of how we do things.”
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About Applied Research and InnovationNBCC’s Applied Research and Innovation office helps businesses and communities find solutions to their challenges. Through its expertise, equipment, and facilities, NBCC helps its partners
to solve problems, take advantage of market opportunities, and develop new, innovative processes that will enhance how New Brunswickers live, work and do business.
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