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Young business person at a desk. (R. Michael Stuckey/Photos.com)
Young business person at a desk. (R. Michael Stuckey/Photos.com)

No co-op positions? Try student consulting Add to ...

The Globe's weekly Business School News roundup

Colleges and universities are increasingly cultivating opportunities for students to gain work experience as an integral part of earning their diploma or degree.

At Winnipeg’s Red River College, the School of Business and Applied Arts has developed a new model of learn-work experience that goes beyond traditional forms of co-operative education and internships.

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The change was driven by necessity.

The school enrolls about 160 students a year in its popular business information technology program, with work experience a mandatory component of the two-year diploma. However, finding suitable work placements for that many students is a challenge.

Last year, school officials introduced “The Project,” a variation of the traditional co-op education model that places one student with an employer for a semester. In this case, the school mobilized teams of three or four students to work on real-life business problems identified by local companies and non-profit organizations.

“Industry thought it was a great idea,” says Guy Dugas, chairman of the accounting and computer education department at the business school. “It can provide a better-than-co-op experience.”

As part of the course, the school provides “Project” students with dedicated space on campus to meet with clients and full access to software and other technology required to solve the problem.

“They have to properly scope it [the project]because they only have 16 weeks to complete the work,” says Mr. Dugas.

While a co-op student is paid by an employer, those enrolled in the “Project” receive a tuition discount if they get passing grades in the technology course.

Last fall, a Winnipeg-based robotic software developer turned to a team of three “Project” students to develop a prototype website for Manitoba’s Virtual Robot Games, a province-wide student competition. Cogmation Robotics Inc., which specializes in robotic simulation for commercial use, is a sponsor of the provincial games.

During the semester, company officials met regularly with the students, who were mentored by teacher-advisers at the school.

“When we started the project, we were not sure if technically they [the students]could do it and if it could be completed on time,” recalls Cogmation president Jack Peterson. In the end, the students delivered what his company asked for, on time, for a new website, virtualrobotgames.com.

“It was very, very successful,” says Mr. Peterson. “It exceeded my expectations.”

In perhaps the best compliment, Mr. Peterson decided to hire one of the ‘Project” students who is graduating from the business technology program this year.

New scholarships

Earlier this year, Brock University officials talked to fourth-year undergraduate students about their career plans. What they heard fell under the heading of good and bad news.

On the plus side, students were positive about their education experience and loyal to the St. Catharines, Ont., institution. But too few knew they had the academic qualifications to apply for a two-year MBA at the faculty of business.

“There was a communication gap with non-business students who seemed to think an MBA program was only for students who had graduated from the business bachelor degree,” says Shari Sekel, director of graduate programs for the Faculty of Business. “But really, nothing is further from the truth.”

At Brock, prospective MBA students must have top academic marks but undergraduate business courses and work experience are not prerequisites for the graduate program.

This September, to drive home the point, the university will offer six new entrance scholarships worth $4,000 each to prospective MBA applicants from its six campus faculties, including business. Brock charges $22,000 for its MBA.

Applicants must be recent Brock graduates with an overall average of at least 80 per cent and with similarly high grades in their final two years of undergraduate studies, as well.

The scholarships are funded through the faculties of business and graduate studies.

With only 35-40 MBA students accepted from a pool of 90-100 aspiring candidates, Prof. Sekel expects strong competition for the scholarships.

In addition to academic marks, scholarship applicants will be judged on their extracurricular activities and “spark,” says Prof. Sekel.

“When they have a passion and interest in what they are doing and they come to us with that strong academic willpower and skills, that is a recipe for success in our program,” she says.

Tops on Twitter

There is a list for everything these days. Now add another for “Top 50 business school professors on Twitter,” created by the website MBAprograms.org.

Nine of the 50 spots go to professors at Harvard Business School, with only one from Canada.

That honour goes to Lyle Wetsch (@LyleWetsch), an associate professor of marketing at Memorial University’s Faculty of Business Administration, cited for his focus on the business potential of social media. “With more than 5,000 tweets, [Prof]Wetsch is serious about tweeting,” reports the website.

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jlewington@bell.net

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