Speed-Networking Event bridging gap between students and pros

It was a packed house for the School of Media Studies and Information Technology’s .NET Bridging Program network event. Photo by Giancarlo Di Peco It was a packed house for the School of Media Studies and Information Technology’s .NET Bridging Program network event. Photo by Giancarlo Di Peco

Giancarlo Di Peco
Biz/Tech Reporter

A .NET Bridging Program Speed-Networking Event at Humber College last Tuesday drew praise from guests and organizers for its impact on students who are newcomers to Canada.

The event was held in the North campus staff lounge where approximately 100 students and employers filled up the room in what was Humber’s biggest business and technology event of the year so far.

The event featured speeches from Guillermo Acosta, Dean of the School of Media Studies and Information Technology, Humber President and CEO Cris Whitaker, with special guests such as Sean Stanleigh from the Globe & Mail and Jennifer T. Lee of Deloitte.

“The wonderful thing about these programs is not only have we created cutting edge curriculum for foreign trained professionals, but this opportunity is for them to do some speed networking with employers to really get a sense of what employers are looking for,” said Geraldine Babcock, Director of the Community Outreach and Workforce Development.

“With these types of events we’ve had such a huge success with employment outcomes and anywhere between 80 to 85 per cent of the graduates from the programs are finding employment,” Babcock added.

“We’ve invited the IT industry to see the IT talent that will be graduating from the program in 2015,” said Meena Dowlwani, the careers professor and job developer for the school of IT and bridging programs.

Once the speakers where finished, chairs were removed and students started to network. Students began to promote themselves using an elevator pitch, which Dowlwani describes as “(a way) to credibly introduce yourself like a marketing script…so in 30 seconds or less you must tell everything about yourself without losing the focus of the employers.”

Employers expect students to be able to sell themselves as quickly and as clearly as possible.

“You want to condense what you’re about in a short 30 second topic,” said Andrew Cosolo, a recruiter at Alta Strada Consulting. “Be careful of your approach because you don’t want to confuse the person when it just sounds like you’re speaking jargon.”

Whitaker said that this is what Humber needs to do to help its international students, and the event is the best place for them to rehearse their pitches and learn to sell themselves to employers.

“We know about the significant skills shortages that exist in many high tech industries, but also there’s a significant challenge with unemployment for a lot of our youths so this is a real opportunity for us to bring together employers and students and hopefully they both see something that they like,” Whitaker said.

Dean Acosta remarked that, “I came to Canada as an international student as well. So I really appreciate what the college is doing to help new Canadians.”

Acosta added that, “this school is proud to have really great placement rates for our students and these types of events really help them.”

The speakers talked about their experiences in the field, as well as the difficulty foreign students face when looking for employment in a new country. And while employers attended the event to assist Humber in pointing students in the right direction, they were also looking for talent.

“It’s important for employers to meet the students but it’s also important for students to be influenced by the outside world,” said Cosolo. “Humber College always likes to keep good relationships with employers. If they don’t do well, they’re abandoning their students and you don’t want to do that.”

Sean Stanleigh, Product Manager for Drive & Small Business at the Globe & Mail said, “When I found out that the makeup of the room was mostly students, immigrants and newcomers to Canada, that is an opportunity for me to come in and talk to talk to people and if there is a way for me to help them then I am fulfilling my mission.”

“Employers need skilled talent,” said Whitaker. “They get to meet the incredible talent that we have here at Humber.”