Young people graduating without real work experience often end up feeling underprepared and underemployed. Likewise, early stage entrepreneurs typically don’t have the funds to hire the engineers, developers or IT specialists they need to grow.
Seeing the dual needs of students and entrepreneurs, Red River College’s (RRC) created the ACE Project Space. At ACE Project Space, students work with entrepreneurs to solve real business challenges by implementing the latest technologies. And while the students gain practical business experience, entrepreneurs get to work with cutting-edge talent.
“It’s an incredible experience for our students,” Haider Al-Saidi, chair of Applied Computer Education, said in an interview with RRC News, “There are nearly 45 students working in teams and up to 15 entrepreneurs or start-ups working out of the space each semester.”
One recent business students worked with was Due North Systems. RRC students created an online platform to recruit and facilitate tutors for K-12 schools. Students working with Go Oil created new software that allows the company’s clients to book appointments, select services, and make payments online.
Young Canadians are eager to use their skills on projects that make a difference, and RRC’s ACE Project Space is changing how youth prepare to enter the workforce, including:
Helping Youth Get Work Experience
“Getting hired with minimal or no work experience continues to be a struggle for university and college graduates,” says Senior Director, Youth Strategy and Innovation at RBC Mark Beckles. “That’s why RBC Future Launch supports ACE Project Space.” In addition to having a resumé with practical experience upon graduation, many of the students in the ACE Project Space will also have a product they helped build to show prospective employers.
Developing Crucial Job Skills for the Future
In addition to applying the technology knowledge gained through study, being immersed in a work environment may help students to develop “soft skills” such as problem solving, interpersonal communications, teamwork, and time management. Students can develop skills in a number of different areas as the program conducts research for solutions to real world problems, acts a testing centre for certifications, and partners student teams with entrepreneurs in need.
Increasing Students’ Confidence
Interacting with real businesses and organizations early on in school may help students build confidence. Instead of working on theoretical projects for class, the program reinforces students’ competence by making them part of technology development teams for real businesses.
Understanding Career Options
Working with professionals on a variety of projects provides students with ways to try out potential careers while still in school. Through their experience at ACE Project Space, students gain insights into their intended career paths. In fact, Stephen Lawrence, ACE Project Space Coordinator says that, “Students often get hired by the entrepreneurs they work with.”
Learning to Build Networks
Developing professional relationships and business networks can be a critical skill for anyone entering the job market. The ACE Project Space has a number of business committees with industry professionals to help guide students and to provide students with networking opportunities while in school.
Building on the success of the ACE Project Space, RRC and RBC are committed to growing the capacity of initiatives like this with the college’s new Innovation Centre. Ongoing support from RBC Future Launch will help create adaptable classrooms, collaboration spaces, student services, and an auditorium seating more than 200 people.
Find out more ways youth can access work related programs, tools and resources.
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