Technation and Microsoft recently launched a career-ready internship program called Explore, which brought first and second-year college and university students from across Canada together 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, along with key certifications in cloud and AI through Azure Fundamentals training and AI Business School. Students were also able to strengthen their professional skills through mentorship opportunities with Microsoft leadership, as well as putting their skills to work by collaborating on a real-life business challenge with peers.
“We came across this idea of bringing 50 students in first year and second year… To get them exposed to technology and get them to ramp up on 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 source the right candidates for the program as well as helping out with content for the course.
“Technation is a great partner; they’ve got access to various relationships with various universities as well…They’ve got some great courses that are specifically targeted for students, like business writing and introduction to project management. So they not only helped to source the content, but also provide some of the content as well,” he added.
The program was made up of students pursuing tech or business-related degrees. Those who were chosen for the program first had to go through an interview process with Microsoft.
The Explore program was divided into three phases:
Academic Certifications and Interactive Discussions: where students acquired certifications in Azure Fundamentals, AI Business School, Sustainability and Accessibility.
Putting Learning into Action: Students took their newfound skills and applied them practically by taking part in their own ‘Dragon’s Den’-style competition. They had a chance to collaborate with their peers and apply their learnings to a real-life business challenge and present their tool/solution to Microsoft’s leadership team.
The third phase focused more on building professional skills.
“I think this program has done wonders to help them [students] ready themselves for the work world and providing them with some key technical skills for jobs. We talked about those professional skills, and really easing into that work environment as well…These are experiences they can take forward to help gain their next internship and then finally their job post-graduation as well,” Khanna said.
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.
“The hard skills are something you could just learn on your own. You can learn it through uni and you can learn it anywhere, but the soft skills that I was able to learn from such a huge organization, I have no words. It was insane,” Memon said.
Memon found the opportunity while looking for a Co-Op placement.
During the 10-week program, he had a chance to hear from full time employees who would help mentor the students while also answering any questions they had.
The Explore program was also able to offer the students referrals to help them network.
“Networking is something that is very vague. Everybody says you need to network but honestly, I never understood what that meant. I really learned [during the program] what it meant to network. Like how do I approach someone who’s in the senior leadership team and how do I create a long lasting impression? How do we foster that relationship? How do I continue that relationship throughout? That’s something I learned. And I think I will take that moving forward,” Memon added.
Saadia Shahid, a second year Computer Science student at TMU, said the program helped give her a better understanding of technical skills such as cloud computing.
“I didn’t know so much about Azure, or you know, cloud. It doesn’t make any sense to me. And you know, before going in, I tried to get an idea of what it was gonna be about. I was trying to get my head around it, but I just don’t couldn’t. So definitely a lot more understanding of cloud computing, and all 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 a service,” Shahid said.
Shahid added that this program 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 have spoken with people who are in the field currently, and they also work with cloud computing services, and so I think it’s definitely helpful,” she said.
Memon echoed this, adding that the Explore program gave him a hands-on approach to technology and working in the tech sector.
“These are the things that will really benefit me in the future. And again, networking and having those connections for the long run, really will help me in the future.”