How To Make The Jump From School To Work

By: Gwera Kiwana

In a competitive job market, making the transition from university or college to the work place is not as straightforward as it was 20 years ago. Most students’ post secondary education lacks three main assets:

  1. Leadership Skills
  2. Collaborative Project Management (Teamwork)
  3. Real World Experience

Conferences are helpful, but only when it comes to showering young people with knowledge and information. Growth and learning occurs when students ‘do’ and this happens through experiential learning.  Aristotle once said, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them“. Employers prefer students that have acquired a variety of experience on their own time—it shows strong initiative.

Fortunately, a number of experiential learning programs are available to students that teach and enhance skills to better prepare them for the workplace. These programs are often organized in a competitive fashion to facilitate stronger efforts. The GTA region presents three successful programs that attract students from various disciplines and encourage collaboration. The RIC Center, a technology incubator in Mississauga, runs the Business Uncovered Program for students and internationally trained professionals. The University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) has launched their annual E-Venture event this November 2013. In addition, the Canadian Youth Business Foundation offers a number of resources, workshops and opportunities for people ages 18-39.

Business Uncovered – The RIC Center

In the Business Uncovered Program, students and internationally trained professionals work in interdisciplinary teams to solve real business problems faced by Altitude Accelerator’s start-up clients.

The program helps students gain specific industry skills that are necessary in today’s competitive world. Participants are placed in cross-institutional and cross-functional teams composed of students from a diverse array of programs as well as internationally trained professionals. This encourages teamwork within a broad range of individuals.

In order to deliver a successful solution to a relevant issue, each team works for a three-month period with: the company, the Student Project Manager, and one of the RIC Center’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence.

The project culminates in a final report that is presented to industry executives, where the best performing team will win a $1000 cash prize.

E-Venture – UTM

E-Venture is a full day event at the University of Toronto Mississauga. This year’s event equipped students with the tools they need to become a successful entrepreneur and innovator within the community. The event was designed to incorporate knowledge and practice through key note speeches, three workshops, and a networking portion.

Students walked away with a comprehensive idea of the resources and opportunities available to them in the GTA as well as a fresh perspective of entrepreneurship and innovation.

Each workshop was designed to incorporate interactive elements and discussion with prosperous entrepreneurs offering their expertise. The event featured three workshops including  ‘Product Development’, ‘Ins and out of Finance’, and ‘How to Pitch to an Investor’.

Canadian Youth Business Foundation

CYBF offers individuals aged 18-39, four fully integrated services that are built around the ‘life cycle’ of a young entrepreneur, helping to ensure the success of new start-ups.

  • Pre-Launch Expertise – Teaches students how to build your business plan, overcome challenges and grow your venture through a network of community partners.
  • Online Business Resources – Access to free tools, templates, articles and crash courses, to help with business planning.
  • Financing – Assistance in finding the best financing option whether you are an emerging entrepreneur or young business owner.
  • Industry-Leading Mentoring – Allows students to benefit from the extensive experience of a business professional to ensure support during their critical start-up phase.

Each of these three programs offers unique benefits depending on the skills students want to enhance. By participating, students connect with industry professionals and get experience with key business concepts. Beyond this, it is up to the student to take initiative and take the acquired knowledge to the next step as well as successfully maintain the relationships found from networking. Overall, such extra-curricular activities will enhance the student’s resume and helping make them more competitive during interviews, effectively helping them make the jump from school to work.

If you know about additional programs similar to the ones mentioned above in this post, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Gwera is  the president of the University of Toronto Mississauga ICCIT Council, a student led academic society. Gwera’s interests are rooted in technology, social change, management and innovation. She aims to work within the digital innovation and technology sector, doing business development in Africa.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal and professional experiences. Visit Altitude Accelerator for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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