Small and medium size businesses make up a large portion of all businesses in Canada, contributing in a great way to the country’s economy.
Government of Canada statistics state that as of December 2017, there were a total of 1.18 million employer businesses. Of these, 1.15 million (97.9 percent) were small businesses, 21,926 (1.9 percent) were medium-sized businesses and 2,939 (0.2 percent) were large businesses.
Roughly two-thirds of Canadians work in companies with fewer than 100 employees. In order for these enterprises to be successful they need to stay on top of innovations in their industry. Colleges and institutes have a long history of collaboration with SME’s, sharing information on new technologies and providing students with an education that makes them competitive in the job market.
According to The Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC) the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recognized that Canadian “colleges are becoming proactive in directly meeting the needs of small businesses in areas of problem solving, process innovation and technical skills.”
Every year Canadian companies look to colleges and institutes to help them improve their processes and grow their services.
Students in college have excellent opportunities to expand their education with real-world experience through co-op placements or internships at small and medium-size businesses.
College students have the opportunity to participate in applied research programs that provide critical thinking skills and sound written and oral communications, while helping industry with innovative ideas and technological advancements.
In fact, CICan (Colleges and Institutes Canada) members participated in over 7300 research programs in the 2017-2018 academic year. 64% of those programs were with SME’s.
Co-operative education is a three-way partnership between the college, the student and the business. Students are eager to showcase their knowledge and skills while gaining hands-on experience.
Co-op placements are not only for a student’s benefit. They also give employers an advantage in their industry.
Co-operative education allows industries to provide feedback to colleges regarding their programs, keeping colleges up to date on the latest technology and giving industry input in developing a college course curriculum.
Small and medium businesses appreciate that their co-op students don’t require a great deal of training as they have relevant education and are focused on gaining experience for their careers.
A co-op placement is also an idea time for employers to evaluate students for possible employment upon graduation. After their co-op, students are ready and able to fill in during busy periods or take on special projects for the employer.
A small or medium size business is a great place to start a career.
Charlotte Blakeley is a business major graduate. Prior to gaining employment in her current position as corporate controller for a large company, Blakeley quickly got a lot experience at a small business.
“When I started my career I wanted to work for a small business because I knew I would get the experience I needed to move ahead in my career. I was fortunate enough to be able to act as payroll administrator, bookkeeper, purchasing and so many more roles that I ended up with a wide-ranging set of skills that would be attractive to future employers,” says Blakeley, “I’m grateful for the experience I gained in small business. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that start.”
Working at a small or medium-size business is also a good place for future entrepreneurs to gain the knowledge they need to start their own enterprise.
Liam Mason had always dreamed of being his own boss.
Mason says, “I knew I wanted to be self-employed but I was hesitant to start because I knew that a lot of businesses can’t make a go of it. I wanted to see what made a business grow and thrive before I struck out on my own. My old boss and I are still great friends even though we are now bidding on the same projects. I wouldn’t have my own business with the freedom to make my own choices and follow my own path if I didn’t start out with him.” Running a business requires hard work, a positive attitude and the experience gained by real-world applications that can be found in the partnership between Canadian colleges and small and medium-size businesses.
By Jackie Fritz