Connecting business students with employers to help tackle today’s business challenges

Photo of Maggie and Simon.
Posted 2020-07-27
UBC Sauder Bachelor of Commerce students Maggie Yip and Simon Roberts are learning what it takes to launch and grow a startup thanks to a new fund that’s making it possible for entrepreneurs to hire students. 

When COVID-19 hit and students headed home to finish their classes online, the prospect of landing a summer job looked bleak for thousands of university students. For those needing to secure a four-month internship or Co-op as part of their graduation requirements, the situation was even more nerve-racking. 

While looking for ways to support students caught in a deteriorating job market, UBC Sauder connected with Mitacs, a national not-for-profit organization whose mandate is to work with universities, companies and governments to support industrial and social innovation in Canada. 

The Mitacs Business Strategy Internship program was launched and UBC Sauder became the pilot school in a network of Canadian business schools to match skilled undergraduate and graduate students with employers for four-month job placements. Students receive a $10,000 stipend shared between Mitacs, the school and the employer. 

Working the alumni network 

For BCom students Simon Roberts and Maggie Yip, the fund was a game changer. With the help of the Business Development team at the UBC Sauder Hari B. Varshney Business Career Centre, they were both placed in startups – one in sustainable agriculture and one in sustainable baking. Both ventures are run by UBC Sauder alumni. 

“I had originally lined up an internship with a credit union but that got cancelled, so I was scrambling in May,” recalls Roberts. Working as an Operations Analyst for AVA Technologies turned out to be the best possible outcome. 

“I was hoping to get some fundamental business experience this summer, but this job is so much more than that,” says Roberts. “I basically get approached with all these different problems and my job is to develop cases studies and offer different solutions.”

Roberts is one of two UBC Sauder students hired by the company, which produces high-tech edible gardens. Because it’s a small organization, he gets to interact with and learn from the boss – CEO Valerie Song.

"We love hiring from UBC Sauder for their curiosity-driven, entrepreneurial-minded and sustainability-conscious students,” says Song, who graduated from the Commerce program in 2014. “Applying their finance and operations skills, their work is crucial to help us plan for and navigate through these unprecedented times."

For Roberts, who is pursuing a Combined Major in Business and Computer Science, the job has given him a taste of Vancouver’s fun and fast-paced startup scene. “When I graduated I thought I would go into software development as a career, but now I’m leaning more toward entrepreneurship in tech.”

Applying academics to the real world 

Maggie Yip is having a transformational learning experience as well. She was hired by Susgrainable Health Foods, which produces baked goods using upcycled spent grain recovered from local craft breweries. 

“I’m interested in sustainability and social impact, so this a great opportunity for me,” says Yip. 

Hired as a Learning and Development Intern, her job entails creating content for future staff training and onboarding. It’s a role that complements her academic specialization in Human Resources and Marketing. 

“I’m the first person in this position, and I have a lot of autonomy to create my own vision and execute the project, which is really exciting.”

The company’s CEO, Marc Wandler, is a UBC Sauder 2019 MBA grad. With the Mitacs Business Strategy Internship program, he was able to hire three summer students. 

“Maggie has been an instrumental addition to our team and has added value since day one. She has great leadership skills, which she showed right at the start when she created a weekly check-in meeting for all our interns,” says Wandler. 

A lifeline for small business and students

For small but high-growth ventures like AVA and Susgrainable, the student funding came at a crucial time, bringing bright minds and fresh ideas into the workplace. The program also provided universities with a creative solution for helping students complete their work Co-op requirements. 

After placing over 150 UBC Sauder graduate and undergraduate students this summer, demand remains high among both sides of the matching program, so the funding is being extended to the fall term. At least 20 companies have already registered their interest; an indication that UBC Sauder students are providing excellent value as they help businesses navigate the new economy. 

To apply to for student internship funding, visit: