Dinner opens doors for Sask Polytech students
Sukhjot Samra came to Canada for her post-secondary education, choosing to come to the Moose Jaw campus of Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
“Personally, I believe there can be no better place than this to study and learn in a more practical way,” said Samra who is from Jalandhar, India and is the vice president of the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Students Association for the Moose Jaw Campus. “The option to participate in training, internships and programs has been a most unique one and serves many purposes. I am learning practically and growing... literally, careers are being shaped here. A true example is my real sister, a student of computer engineering at this institute, who even before completing her degree in 2019 has been assured a job in a nutrient company in Rocanville.
“Sask Polytech is a place where people have big hearts. They have given me, newcomer to this land of dreams, this great opportunity.”
Students at Saskatchewan Polytechnic got a different kind of practical experience on December 6th when the school hosted its annual Business and Industry Dinner at the Heritage Inn. The events are held at Sask Polytech locations across the province and give students the chance to network with potential employers.
“These dinners are very important for a number of reasons,” said Dr. Larry Rosia, president and CEO of Saskatchewan Polytechnic. “First, they remind all of us at Saskatchewan Polytechnic how fortunate we are to have such a strong partnership with business and industry. Your companies play a vital role in helping us make sure that our program is relevant and current and that our students leave here when they graduate with the skills that they need to hit the ground running and be successful in your companies and be successful in their careers. “Secondly, these dinners are a way to provide you -- our industry leaders, business partners and alumni -- with the opportunity to meet some of our fantastic students.” The dinners serve another purpose, as well. The proceeds from the dinners help fund Sask Polytech’s student awards program and provide more students with access to financial assistance. To date, more than $2 million worth of scholarships and bursaries have been distributed from funds raised through the event. More than a thousand stu- dents, industry professionals, faculty and alumni were expected to attend the dinner series this year.
Rosia joked that the dinner was not unlike speed dating, but added that the money raised is incredibly valuable for their students, to say nothing of the networking experience they gain at the event.
The Business and Industry Dinners were presented by Graham Group Ltd. this year. Rosia said that they appreciate the support of the business rector and the relationships between Sask Polytech and industry in the province is vital for everyone’s growth.
“At Saskatchewan Polytechnic, we are focused on the future. Ensuring that we have a skilled and trained workforce -- people with the knowledge, skills and ability to adapt to change -- is essential to Saskatchewan’s future,” Rosia said, noting that 75 per cent of Sask Polytech programs feature work integrated learning that allows students to apply what they’ve learned in a practical setting and then learn new skills on the job that they get to bring back with them to apply and share when they return to the classroom. Keynote speakers of the event were Angela and Ken McDougall who both graduated from the Saskatchewan Technical Institute -- Angela noted that the acronym STI means something very different now than it did in the 1980s. They credit the school for preparing them for their successful business careers.
The McDougalls are fourth generation farmers who turned their family farm, McDougall Acres, into an independent seed retailer business offering seed treatment, cleaning and colour sorting services. In the 1980s, the McDougalls started growing pulse crops -- dry peas, lentils and chickpeas -- which was an innovative idea for the time. In 2012 they started to become a pet food supplier and were the first supplier for pulse crops to a major pet food company. Now they have branched into distribution, as well, and buy chickpeas from producers around the province, Montana and North Dakota and then clean them, sort them and ship them overseas to India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and Iraq.
“We’re so thankful for the education and experience we received from our STI and your Saskatchewan Polytechnic,” said Angela McDougall before offering some advice to the students present. “Don’t expect to find your dream job as soon as you graduate. If you do, great! If not, don’t get discouraged. Just look at all of your experiences as stepping stones towards that perfect job.
“If your goal is to own your own business some day, in most cases it is so beneficial to work for someone else. You will learn how employees like to be treated and what their expectations are from the boss. Owning your own business is fantastic in so many ways, but if you’re not prepared to give it 110 per cent and work 60-plus hours a week until you are established, it may not be for you.” Last year at the Moose Jaw campus dinner, the alumni keynote speaker offered to let a student job shadow at their business for a day. That was such a success that the student shadowing experience was spread to every campus this year. The McDougalls had accounting student Payton Wagman job shadow them for the day, in addition to awarding her their annual scholarship.
“We had a great day with Payton and indicated to her that we would love to have her on our team,” said Angela McDougall.