Home Regular Contributors Elan MacDonald Hiring Students Boosts Regional Growth — and the Economy

Hiring Students Boosts Regional Growth — and the Economy

Elan MacDonald

When I was president and CEO of Impact Consulting — a government relations advisory and communications company serving local, national and international clients — I created a post-secondary student internship role.

Our first intern, Carly, spent her summer working with me after her first year of study at the University of Alberta. She was working towards a degree in political science, came from rural Alberta and didn’t have a lot of experience.

Carly was me.

I grew up in the Calgary area. When I was in my second year of university, I got an internship with the Government of Alberta that brought me to Edmonton. It solidified my love of policy and politics and it gave me practical experience that led to my first real job after graduation. So, when I first met Carly, I saw myself — and that desire to be given a chance.

Work-integrated learning experiences are obviously beneficial for students as those experiences give students practical skills to incorporate in their studies and prepare them for the future. But they’re also tremendously valuable to employers.

It’s priceless to have somebody to train on the job right as they are learning. Carly became the ideal employee for my firm. She brought fresh perspectives, energy and excitement to the team.

Carly stayed with the firm for the duration of her studies. The work-integrated learning experience shaped her into the likeness of exactly what the firm looked for in its employees.

Carly became a capable, talented professional who has chosen to remain in Edmonton post-graduation. The more we can do to give our students roots in the community, the more they are going to want to stay here. Each student who stays becomes part of our community of valued professionals, entrepreneurs and business owners.

With more than 53,000 post-secondary students, according to Alberta Advanced Education, currently studying at the eight institutions in our region, the opportunities to engage with and benefit from students are abundant. Access to the talent produced at a top Canadian university — all students at the University of Alberta have opportunities for work-integrated learning — is a major advantage for the Edmonton business community. Sharing your experience with a student is one way that any business, large or small, can invest in our local workforce.

Imagine retaining all of that talent in our region. The growth of our city and economy would be enormous.

For me, it was because of my Edmonton-based internship during university that I came back after I graduated. It sharpened my focus and connected me to this city where I have now worked, volunteered and raised my family.

Thirty years later, I’m still here.