(Republished with permission from the 3D Planeta website)
By Tom Batty, Co-Founder and COO, 3D Planeta
Successful high-growth start-ups are the work of many hands.
Over the past couple of years, Norm and I have worked non-stop to cultivate strong relationships with employees, early-stage investors and partners who share our vision to build a world-leading earth intelligence company in Atlantic Canada.
New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) is one of those valued partnerships because together we are building a highly-skilled talent attraction and retention funnel through an innovative new experiential learning initiative.
The Flex program, which launches its first full-scale pilot in January 2022, is a paid “Flexible Learning EXperience” internship for NBCC students across many disciplines. For the pilot, about 75 percent will be federally funded, with the remaining 25 percent covered by the employer.
That’s a funding split that benefits everyone involved: the start-ups and SMEs that want to grow but can’t fully afford the labour costs, the students that have the talent but can’t find work, and the governments in Atlantic Canada that want to attract and retain skilled workers in our region and reverse our decades-long glacial population growth.
I’m proud to say 3D Planeta is the Flex program’s founding private sector partner, having worked alongside its architects, NBCC’s Karen Campbell, Mark MacDonald and numerous others, to help shape it from ideation to beta testing it in our office to its launch in a few weeks.
The program solves a problem that has been bugging me for years: how can we as employers more directly ease the financial burden of post-secondary students while also providing experiential learning that accelerates their path to full employment?
I have long sung the praises of internships and experiential learning because I know the benefits highly-skilled students bring to an organization.
It was during a conversation with Karen back in 2019 that we both asked that question so familiar to innovators and entrepreneurs: what can we do to help?
Here’s how Karen remembers that conversation: “We talked about a model where throughout a student’s education they had multiple points to inject themselves into a company so that company could be part of their education. The win for the company would be that they’d get an opportunity to nurture a talented, dedicated student throughout their whole educational journey,” she said. “To me, that’s the ultimate experiential learning.” I agree with Karen, because I knew the students deserved a wage for their hard work and dedication.
This is what Karen, Mark and the team at NBCC then set out to do: to build a business case for an experiential learning program that formalized a bridge between NBCC and employers to enable students to move seamlessly between the classroom and the workplace while completing their studies.
We were supportive of their efforts because we were already seeing the benefits of working with students while they completed their studies. For instance, Oksana Tesla, 3D Planeta’s Special Projects Lead, came to us via an NBCC unpaid practicum because of our shared belief in business being a force for good. Her first project was to work on our BCorp certification and register us with 1% for the Planet.
Karen and Mark got the go-ahead from the NBCC senior executive team in early 2021 and that’s where Norm and I got involved by offering to be the program’s first test case.
Enter Mackenzie Storey, the Flex program’s proof of concept. He came to us in April 2020, first as a volunteer but then as soon as we found a funding support agency, we happily converted Mackenzie to a paid eight-week internship; today he’s a full-time 3D Planeta software engineer.
He’s thrilled that he gets to follow his dream from his hometown of Fredericton; we’re thrilled that we can build a professional home for highly-skilled talent.
Naturally, we signed up for more, which is why in about seven weeks we’ll be one of about 15 employers participating in the Flex program’s full-scale pilot project.
It’s a great story, but let’s be frank about how we came to be in it.
First, we found a partner in NBCC that shared our values and desire to attract and retain highly skilled talent in the region.
Then we asked each other a simple question: how can we help?
The answer was, we’ll figure it out together.
Many hands, many minds, that’s how change happens.
(Originally published on the 3D Planeta website)