While students at the Sobey Business School have had corporate tours of the financial companies in Toronto and technology start-ups in Windsor in the past, this year the school, which is division of Saint Mary's University in Halifax, has changed it up.
On September 29, more than 20 of its students will be embarking on a day-long corporate tour of the South Shore.
Tours to Ontario and abroad have been exciting and given students the opportunity to meet a variety of employers, according to Karn Nichols, the manager of career services and graduate programs, however, members of the planning group began asking themselves, "'Why are we exporting our students?'"
Nichols told LighthouseNOW in a telephone interview from Halifax, "We knew we could kind of create the same experience here in our own backyard."
Early in the year the school began engaging with a number of community stakeholders to help organize the tour, including Employment Solutions, Nova Scotia Works, South Shore Regional Enterprise Network, Queens County, Now Lunenburg, the Town of Bridgewater.
And it began working to increase awareness of the value of such a tour to companies in the area.
"We found that employers....didn't know what they needed. And we tried to help them understand the value that the graduate student could bring," explained Nichols.
The Sobey Business School has students studying for a masters degree in a number of key areas including finance, technology entrepreneurship and innovation, and applied economics.
As well as the requisite undergraduate degree, many students come into the school with "a good chunk of working experience."
The tour organizers held focus groups with both students and employers to understand what is is about rural Nova Scotia that is appealing.
"Where are the challenges? Where are the opportunities? The idea was to address the issues both from the perspective of the employer and the employee.
"That's the thrust of it. I've said to the group all along, 'This isn't about getting bums in seats. This is about changing the way we think about opportunity.'"
According to Nichols, about 20 students have signed up for the tour, with the majority of these being international students.
"Forty to 50 per cent of our students are international students, and when we did the focus group here we found the international students were actually quite keen to find ways to get out to that community," said Nichols.
About a dozen companies have signed on to participate in the tour. They include large corporations such as, Michelin, Stelia, RPS Composites, smaller start-ups such as Neck Tronics and Van Dyke, and other home-grown companies such as Stattler, Northern Climate and Helping Nature Heal.
"So the students will get a really rich experience and be able to have conversations with some of the owners and operators," Nichols noted.
O'Regan's have donated four SUVs to help the school transport the students, while YMCA's outreach settlement program, YREACH, has contributed some funding as well.
However, the tour is mostly being financed by the school, according to Nichols.
The day-long event kicks off at 7:30 a.m. and will end with a meet and greet event at Wile's Lake Farm Market and Bakery.