By Gail Bowkett
In spring 2018, the Government of Canada announced support for work-integrated-learning opportunities for college students. Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that has run successful industry research internships for almost 20 years, expanded their program to support students from colleges and polytechnics.
High-quality internship opportunities provide obvious advantages for students. They gain work experience and develop valuable skills they’ll need in their careers.
For businesses, these interns offer applied research expertise that advances R&D at a time when Canadian companies face shortages of research talent. College and polytechnic students provide an essential pool of more than 700,000 skilled students in large and small communities across the country. They can address a range of needs, from a project’s early development to its late-stage components and management.
The ability to draw from a variety of talent helps businesses put together efficient research teams. Glacier Farm Media, for example, which runs large agricultural trade shows, is working with researchers and students from Saskatchewan Polytechnic to develop an app that can support trade shows in rural areas with limited internet and electrical connectivity.
College and university interns can also work alongside each other to share expertise and move projects forward. In central BC, students from Camosun College and UBC Okanagan are working with Conair Aviation to help aerial firefighters. They’re developing wearable technologies that can monitor pilot fatigue and stress to improve safety.
College and polytechnic students learn valuable applied research skills. The sooner they can bring those skills to the workplace, the better — for both our present and future.
Gail Bowkett is the Director, Innovation Policy at Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada.