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Bridging the gap: Helping prepare students for the world of work

October 03, 2023

By Aleem Nawla and Angele Mavridis

How can we help prepare students for their career? For Aleem Nawla and Angele Mavridis, their mission is to reach out, connect, and give back.

As an engineering student, you learn a lot of important things in school: theoretical and engineering concepts; time management with the never-ending list of assignments, projects, and exams; as well as making lifelong friendships and connections. But there are many skills valuable to the workplace that you do not learn in school. How can we—engineers, designers, and other professionals working in the industry—help prepare students for the world of work? 

The transition to work

After graduating university, we both began looking for jobs with a spring in our step, excited to start our careers but also anxious about our futures. Was that spring in our step enough to leap into the world of work? The honest answer is we weren’t sure. And, if we felt that, we are sure this year’s, next year’s, and future years’ graduating classes are probably feeling the same. So, we decided to leverage our experience (and nerves) through the Developing Professionals Group (DPG) chapter in Kelowna, British Columbia. Together, we set up and participated in events that would allow us to share our experience and create a foundation for a smooth university-to-work transition for students. We also wanted to give back to the communities we graduated from, contribute to the inclusive and welcoming space within our organization, and live our Company values: We put people first. We do what is right. We are better together. We are driven to achieve.

Angele Mavridis shares her experience with UBCO students at the UBCO Career Fair.

Giving back to our student community

How did we do it? The short answer is we got busy! We kicked off by arranging a meet and greet with our University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) campus scholarship students. The Stantec Indigenous Scholarship in Engineering supports two third-year students with $5,000 each for their third and fourth year at school. In addition, we also support a bursary through Indspire, a national Indigenous-registered charity that invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people. Our scholarship students visited the office and had lunch with our leaders and coworkers. It was a great opportunity to connect informally.

Next up, we organized our first official event—a Student Open House. To generate interest, we sent an invite to the UBC Engineering Society. Within a few days, over 100 students had expressed an interest in attending! The 40 attendees met with our team, networked, and had the opportunity to ask questions. It really was a win-win, as our junior staff got the chance to mentor and senior staff to share their wisdom. This event allowed students to appreciate the impact that Stantec has on their daily lives through our project work. The event also increased staff engagement, which encouraged us to feel even more connected to our work and our community.

Between us, we’ve attended the UBCO Career Fair where we shared about our lives as engineers-in-training and gave resume feedback at UBCO’s Resume Roast. Using these opportunities to connect with students is important to show how different the early years of an engineering career can look. It is a chance to build connections and set them up for success when they apply for jobs. We hope we played a small part in helping students to avoid critical, or even simple, mistakes that may hinder them in their efforts to land their dream jobs.

There’s a missing piece for students, and we hope we are doing our bit to help the next generation feel confident and comfortable entering the industry.

Satisfied students

We received great feedback from the students. One that comes to mind, is when a student shared how helpful connecting with us had been. There’s a missing piece for students, and we hope we are doing our bit to help the next generation feel confident and comfortable entering the industry.

It is really rewarding being a role model, too. Many students were intrigued by each of our journeys, and in some cases, inspired by what we have achieved. Having only graduated a few years ago, we really see value in expanding networks. We’re honored to play our part in breaking down transition barriers from education to industry, sharing our journeys and what we do day-to-day, and inspiring students to fulfil their potential. 

Empowered employees

As well as sharing, there’s been a lot of personal learning too. We’ve both discussed how this process has reinforced Stantec as the organization we want to work for. We’ve been empowered to speak on a topic close to our heart. We’ve been supported by and joined at some of these events by both our office leader, Bryan Burston, and regional leader, Brian Yates. Our peers gave their own time to not only support the event we were organizing and the DPG but to share their experiences with the students attending. 

We aspire to be leaders in our industry and this aspiration has only been confirmed by hearing how we are helping. Mentoring is not something you must wait a decade into your career to start—anyone can be a mentor. For Stantec to support this in our careers now is amazing and a great professional development experience. It’s also been a great opportunity to hone our public speaking, event organization, and networking skills. 

Aleem Nawla connects with students during the Student Open House.

Paying it forward

We’ve both benefitted from mentorship and wanted to pay forward, and we’re enjoying every minute. From new connections, working with colleagues we wouldn’t normally work with, to an opportunity to show initiative and raise our own Company profiles. Our aspiration to share the world of work with students is personal.

Our closing advice to the next generation of EITs? Three things:

  1. Don’t lose sight of what makes you YOU. There are so many opportunities out there, it’s about finding a match with your interests and skills. 
  2. Expand your network—in fact, embrace networking! Remember, people do the work, not a logo.
  3. Give back to your community at every stage of your career. You don’t have to be a CEO to mentor or share your experience—do it at every stage of your career!

Are you interested in working at Stantec? Check out our student, intern, co-op, and graduate opportunities.

We also support the next generation of professionals through scholarships, including the Stantec Equity & Diversity Scholarship.

Find out more about Stantec’s Developing Professional Group.

  • Aleem Nawla

    A civil engineer, Aleem is part of Stantec’s multidisciplinary teams in civil design and construction management of transportation and infrastructure projects—and worked to rebuild B.C.’s Highway 8 after major flooding washed out the road.

    Contact Aleem
  • Angele Mavridis

    As a civil engineer in training, Angele is currently focusing on various civil construction and flood recovery projects in cities and Indigenous communities across British Columbia—she believes that solutions should honor the landscape and culture.

    Contact Angele
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