What Is Experiential Learning and How Can Your Business Benefit From It? June 25, 2013 RICCentre By: Shamini Sellvaratnam Do you have trouble attracting top talent for your startup? In a survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, of the 150 startup CEO’s surveyed, 26% saw attracting and retaining talent as one of their biggest challenges. With this increasing struggle, cash-strapped startups can look to experiential learning programs offered by universities or not-for-profit organizations to supply skilled and affordable short term labour. Experiential learning programs give post-secondary students the opportunity to partner with innovative companies to solve real-world problems using their technical knowledge. Startups participating in experiential learning programs often gain company and brand exposure as well as access, for a short period of time, to qualified labour. Programs and organizations, such as the Ontario Center of Excellence (OCE) Connections program and Mitacs, a not-for-profit dedicated to the coordination of industry-university research projects, offer innovative organizations partnerships with post-secondary students. This year, OCE Discovery hosted the OCE Connections competition where several student-industry projects were selected for review by a panel of industry experts for a chance to win $2,000 in prizes. This program-turned-competition, gives post-secondary students an opportunity to tackle real-world problems faced by innovative companies in Ontario and is a great way for startups to get access to qualified labour. The winners of this year’s competition included Mohawk College, Western University and Queen’s University, in partnership with Tiffany Metal-Castings Ltd, City of London and Utilities Kingston. Another organization to provide experiential learning programs is Mitacs, an organization that supports and promotes academic-industrial R&D between companies and graduate students. This organization helps identify innovative needs of organizations and then matches them with academic experts. Among the number of Mitacs Programs available, the Mitacs Enterprise program can help startups looking to scale in size and scope, gain highly capable individuals to solve pressing innovative problems. As a startup business who participated in the Mitacs Enterprise Program, Mr. Kolacz of Ottawa based Global Spatial Technology Solutions Inc. has this to say: “In the start-up situation, things are fast-paced. What I really appreciated was the responsiveness of the Mitacs Enterprise team to meet our timelines and needs.” With a variety of talented and skilled labour available, participating in experiential learning is a great way for startups to not only gain expert opinion, but collaborate with future innovative leaders. If you are interested in participating in the Mitacs Enterprise Program, please contact Dane Svenson, Marketing and Communications Coordinator at 604-822-9974 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the OCE Connections program, please contact Roxy Hamilton, Program Manager at 613-726-3420 x 4223 or email@example.com. Shamini is completing her final year at the University of Toronto Mississauga and is pursuing an undergraduate specialist degree in Business Administration and a major in Communication, Culture & Information Technology. Shamini is joining the RIC team this summer as a Communications Intern bringing with her a passion in marketing and various experiences in online marketing. The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal and professional experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.