Nov. 30, 2021
Record number of Schulich students find internship placements in 2021
Student internship placements have hit an all-time record at the Schulich School of Engineering, surpassing the previous high-water mark set prior to the global pandemic.
Officials at the faculty say the new record, which saw a total of 569 students out on job placements in 2021, is the result of a number of factors.
A rebounding economy, coupled with staff creativity in connecting the right students to the ideal work environment and excited employers who have been able to successfully pivot many of their projects to be performed by students remotely while providing a meaningful and productive experience, was viewed as a winning formula for everyone.
“The Engineering Career Centre stepped up during Alberta’s economic downturn, and then the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure students were still finding internship opportunities,” says Jenny Cruickshank, associate director of Student Services. “Their flexibility and work ethic helped make some phenomenal connections across the engineering community.”
Lisa van de Panne, who is heading into her fourth year and majoring in electrical engineering, is on a 15-month internship at Neuraura Biotech — a Calgary startup that uses technology to unlock unanswered questions about the brain.
She is involved in two projects: the development of a minimally invasive neurosurgery device, and the development of sensors with improved signal quality for epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease researchers.
It is exciting to work at a startup because my role in these projects is quite broad. It ranges from technical design work to market research to project management to establishing a manufacturing supply chain.
She’s grateful for the opportunity to get hands-on experience, and also to start relationship-building.
“This internship has given me a strong foundation for my career in neurotechnology,” van de Panne says. “I get to work at the cutting edge of the field, and I have learned to be extremely creative and resourceful, as I’ve been given a lot of ownership and freedom in running projects.”
Eyes to the future
Work is already underway to make more connections to set another record in 2022.
Emily Wyatt is the manager, student experience at the Schulich School of Engineering and says community is central to the success of the internship program.
“Every successful placement is good for both students and our industry partners,” Wyatt says. “Many of our partners keep coming back to us and help spread the word about the program because of how impressed they are with the quality of the students.”
Investing in community
Neuraura Biotech was formed as a spin-out from the University of Calgary as part of a collaboration between the Schulich School of Engineering and Hotchkiss Brain Institute (Cumming School of Medicine).
Meanwhile, Chris Leskiw is a Schulich grad who now serves as the vice-president, research and development at ZeroKey — another digital technology startup.
“If there are any companies out there that are on the fence about hiring an internship student, I would highly advise that they leverage the internship talent that Schulich offers,” Leskiw says. “That eagerness, that willingness to learn, it’s a very cost-effective way to increase the productivity across your entire company.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by John Molberg, who is the vice-president, innovation at Canadian UAVs — a provider of unmanned aerial vehicle operations.
“The number-one benefit of hiring interns from the University of Calgary is that we get top-quality talent,” he says. “Value is the biggest thing — they come in fairly well-prepared to work and within a couple of months, we can’t really tell the difference between an intern and a new grad.”
Advice for the next generation
For van de Panne, her goals go beyond graduating in 2023 as she wants to take her career to the next level.
She has some advice for those looking to find the best internship for them.
“Do not take on extracurricular experiences for the sole purpose of boosting your resume,” van de Panne says. “Instead, curate extracurricular activities that you are genuinely interested in and fully commit to, as genuine interest goes a long way to motivate you.”
She adds that quality of the experience is always better than quantity, in turn making it a more enjoyable undergraduate experience.
“I love what I’m doing now, and this internship has confirmed that I want to continue working in the neurotechnology sector,” van de Panne says. “I am unsure of what specific roles I will play throughout my career, but I will be happy as long as I can invent and innovate devices to help patients with neurological diseases.”