Technation and Microsoft recently launched a career-readiness internship program called Explore, which brought together first- and second-year college and university students from across Canada to participate in a 10-week paid work-integrated experiential learning program at Microsoft’s Canadian headquarters in Toronto.
Fifty Canadian students had the opportunity to gain technical skills, as well as key cloud and AI certifications through Azure Fundamentals training and AI Business School. Students were also able to build their professional skills through mentorship opportunities with Microsoft management, as well as put their skills to use by collaborating on a real-world business challenge with peers.
“We came across this idea of bringing 50 students in first and second year…To expose them to technology and get them to develop their technology skills and understand the different technology platforms,” said Sumeet Khanna, vice president of business. Transformation and strategic initiatives at Microsoft Canada.
According to Khanna, Technation helped Microsoft find the right candidates for the program as well as provide content for the course.
“Technation is an excellent partner; they also have access to various relationships with various universities… They have great courses specifically aimed at students, such as business writing and introduction to project management. So not only did they help find the content, but they also provided some of the content,” he added.
The program consisted of students pursuing degrees in technology or business. Those chosen for the program first had to pass an interview with Microsoft.
The Explore program was divided into three phases:
Academic certifications and interactive discussions: where students earned certifications in Azure Fundamentals, AI Business School, Sustainability and Accessibility.
Put learning into action: The students took their new skills and applied them practically by entering their own “Dragon’s Den” style contest. They had the chance to collaborate with their peers and apply their learnings to a real business challenge and pitch their tool/solution to the Microsoft leadership team.
The third phase focused more on build professional skills.
“I think this program has done wonders to help them [students] prepare for the world of work and provide them with key technical skills for jobs. We talked about those job skills and fitting into that work environment as well… These are experiences they can leverage to help them get their next internship and then finally their job after graduation,” said said Khanna.
Ayaan Memon, a third-year Business Technology Management student at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), said the program really helped him broaden his soft skills such as networking and collaboration.
“Technical skills are something you can just learn on your own. You can learn it in college and you can learn it anywhere, but the soft skills I was able to learn from such a large organization, I have no words. It was crazy,” Memon said.
Memon found the opportunity while looking for a co-op placement.
During the 10-week program, he had the chance to hear from full-time staff who would help mentor students while answering their questions.
The Explore program was also able to provide students with referrals to help them network.
“Networking is something very vague. Everyone says you have to network but honestly, I never understood what that meant. I really learned [during the program] what it meant to network. For example, how do I approach someone on the management team and how can I create a lasting impression? How can this relationship be fostered? How can I continue this relationship throughout? It’s something I learned. And I think I’m going to move on,” added Memon.
Saadia Shahid, a second-year computer science student at TMU, said the program helped her better understand technical skills such as cloud computing.
“I didn’t know much about Azure, or you know, the cloud. It makes no sense to me. And you know, before I went in, I tried to get an idea of what it was going to be like. I tried to understand, but I couldn’t. So definitely a lot more understanding of cloud computing and all of these various services that are offered as part of cloud services and how there are different types of cloud services like SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS, which is infrastructure as than service,” Shahid said.
Shahid added that this program has helped her prepare for her future by giving her a better understanding of the industry.
“I’m studying computer science and I want to become a software engineer or software developer. And so I’ve spoken with people who are currently working in the field, and they’re also working with cloud computing services, and so I think that’s really helpful,” she said.
Memon echoed this, adding that the Explore program gave him a hands-on approach to technology and working in the tech industry.
“Those are the things that will really benefit me in the future. And again, the networking and those long-term relationships will really help me in the future.