May 28, 2021

'Externship' initiative links work-hungry Schulich students with hands-on experiences

Inaugural program open to industry partners including non-profits and small businesses
A student works in a Schulich School of Engineering lab. Riley Brandt

Schulich School of Engineering students looking to gain experience in industry have a new avenue to connect with prospective employers.

The new Engineering Externship has been launched for the summer of 2021, with the hope of getting qualified students an opportunity to work on projects with industry partners.

“Alberta’s economic situation, along with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, requires that we step up and innovate some new ways for students to break into the job market,” says Jenny Cruickshank, associate director of student services at Schulich. “We want this program to bridge the gap for those students wanting to develop their professional skills and knowledge with industry-led, experiential learning.”

Shorter than a typical internship, the externship program will provide students with 150 to 250 hours of experience, spread over four to 10 weeks, ending by Aug. 20.

Getting to work

Students participating in the externship program, which consists of unpaid work experience, will be supported with a scholarship of $5,000 to use toward tuition in the upcoming fall and winter terms.

The program is supported, in-part, by gifts made to the Schulich School of Engineering during the April 2021 University of Calgary Giving Day, with contributions of up to 50 per cent from industry participants.

“We’re targeting students who have not secured an internship or practicum placement,” Cruickshank says. “From there, we will connect industry projects with eligible students to identify work-integrated learning opportunities for at least 10 students.”

To participate, students must be in good academic standing with a GPA above 2.0. They will also be required to submit a resume and complete a critical reflection after the experience.

Learn more about industry-partner requirements.

Adding to the team

Businesses have been looking for unique approaches to counter the challenges provided by the economy and COVID-19.

Participating in the externship program involves a simple process. Organizations complete an online form, providing details about project outcomes, key engineering attributes students will gain from the experience, and logistics for project execution.

For some, the opportunity to work with more Schulich students is welcome.

“I am always impressed with the quality of students at Schulich,” says John Zahary, Altex Energy president and chief operating officer. “As an alumnus of the Schulich School of Engineering, it’s also gratifying to see the school focus on students gaining experiential learning to support them in seeking employment.”

Dr. Noreen Kamal is the co-founder and chief technology officer at DESTINE Health. She says Schulich students she has dealt with in the past have shown they were very capable and up-to-date with the latest technology.

“There is a place in society to give students experiential learning,” Kamal says. “Learning through work is critical and we are committed to it. I feel like I’m giving them a learning environment.”

Once summer ends, Cruickshank’s team will reach out to participants and industry partners for feedback.

“We hope to find out what worked and what didn’t,” she says. “If all goes well, we would love to build on this idea and provide even more placements next summer.”

Interested students and industry partners have until June 17, 2021 to apply.