These days, a degree doesn’t guarantee that you’ll find a job in your field of study. At times, even “entry-level” positions require experience, which recent graduates often don’t have, and in the current climate they may be competing for these positions with people who have more work experience. Although there are no official statistics in Canada, the CBC estimates that one in three 25 to 29 year olds with a college or university degree ends up in a low-skilled job. It’s a problem that many recent graduates are facing as they navigate a job market seemingly immune to their post-secondary education.
While many university and college students are bartending or serving tables at a restaurant, or working in retail, Ana-Maria Calixto has spent the past two summers as a student in our Pharmaceuticals division. As she heads into her fourth year majoring in Communications Studies with a minor in French at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ana-Maria says working within a business environment has provided her with valuable experience and exposed her to office culture prior to graduation.
“It was very hands-on and I was exposed to so much,” she says. “I was learning new things every day, but it really didn’t feel like learning. Working here gave me confidence and I gained practical skills that will serve me well in the future. I learned about working in a corporate setting, collaborating with peers, and how different departments within an organization fit together to accomplish shared goals.”
Our summer student program gives post-secondary students the chance to gain work experience within their field of study. In turn, we welcome their new and fresh perspectives, which give us a renewed sense of purpose and curiosity that comes from this injection of bright and optimistic minds ready to tackle any challenge. Students in our program can work for up to two summer terms, helping them hone their skills, build their networks, find mentors, and demonstrate their capabilities to business leaders who may serve as a reference for future employers when they graduate. Departmental placements are decided through a candidate application and interview process similar to that of any role at Roche, and are based on the needs of our business and the individual student’s interests and areas of study.
This year, Ana-Maria worked in Product Development Regulatory Documentation, where she supported internal communications around the roll-out of a new interactive business software to help increase efficiency within the team. Although Regulatory Documentation has a strong technical component outside of her area of study, she was able to use her training and experience to support the team: “It showed me how much of a role communications plays in every department.”
Beyond practical work experience that may help her find a position fresh out of school, Ana-Maria has been able to use what she has learned in the classroom. Last year she worked in Corporate Affairs, supporting projects focused on strategy and planning, and communications. As she explains, “In my public relations course last year, we were talking about social media and the professor asked if anyone had heard of social media software. I was the only one in the class who knew what it was and what it did, because I’d worked on a research project to explore different platforms and their capabilities. At that moment, it hit home how much I had learned over my summer placement and how practical the experience I’d gained would be for both my career moving forward and for my course work.”
In addition to the responsibilities tied to their role, students are given the choice of taking on creative cross-functional projects that have an impact across the business or within the community. Teams are given a problem and have free-reign to design innovative solutions, supported by resources and a project mentor. Over the past two years, Ana-Maria has worked alongside her fellow students to create an interactive video to highlight departments and functions within our company, and to design low-cost 3D printed devices in partnership with 3D4MD to solve accessibility challenges for people living with multiple sclerosis.
“As a summer student at Roche, you’re treated like a real employee,” said Ana-Maria. “My best friend also worked in a corporate environment and she spent her summer stapling and filing, which was definitely not my experience. Roche really put our young minds to work by giving us creative projects that tap into our different perspectives and subject-matter expertise. I feel like my ideas and opinions were truly valued and the work I did made a difference.”
As the summer comes to a close and our 21 students return to their respective schools across the country, we feel honoured to have had them as valuable members of our teams. On behalf of all of us at Roche Canada, thank you to all our students for choosing to spend the summer with us. We wish you a great school year ahead and hope to see many of your smiling faces again - as well as many new ones - next year.
September 6, 2017