By Brandon Gillet
The University’s Co-operative Education Programs and the Entrepreneurship Hub have teamed up with RBC Royal Bank to launch an innovative CO-OP program designed to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.
The RBC uOttawa CO-OP Entrepreneurship Program offers students several ways to learn the basics of running a business related to their degree. Students can tailor their entrepreneurial experience by choosing from three options. They can launch their own startup, or undertake an entrepreneurial apprenticeship. Or they can opt for a traditional CO-OP placement but with a relatively new small business, so they see how a startup works from the ground up.
“The program is really unique in that it gets students thinking in the entrepreneurial mindset and about whether or not they can be entrepreneurs,” said Marc-André Daoust, associate director of CO-OP programs.
RBC approached the University because they were interested in contributing to CO-OP programs, and uOttawa’s Development Office helped identify entrepreneurship as a focus area, Daoust said. As part of RBC's $450,000 investment in the new program over three years, eligible students can get a $10,000 scholarship and an additional $5,000 to continue their project.
Luc Lalande, executive director of uOttawa’s Entrepreneurship Hub, said, “The RBC program appeals to students who wish to pursue an entrepreneurial venture based on an idea they are already committed to making a reality. It is also suited to those students who may not have an idea for their own venture but wish to develop entrepreneurial skills nonetheless.”
One such student, Justin McLeod, outlines it perfectly in a blog post: “I am a student with an entrepreneurial mind, but I don’t have a well-baked idea and I’m not ready to launch anything just yet.
“What do we do with these students that have an entrepreneurial mind, like myself, but either don’t have an idea or just don’t want to dive themselves into the unknown just yet?” McLeod mentioned the apprenticeships in entrepreneurship option as a solution.
McLeod has been involved with the Entrepreneurship Hub since before the inception of the RBC joint program. In fact, Daoust said, the program was modelled on McLeod’s experience.
“First I was placed with a design company, where I learned to deal with customers,” McLeod said. “That led to my second CO-OP term at the Entrepreneurship Hub with Luc Lalande.”
McLeod heard about the RBC program last session, and is now completing a placement through the program with ING Robotic Aviation. He is working as a designer, but also gets to sit in on meetings, so he sees how the CEO runs things.
“Luc (Lalande) called it my ‘entrepreneur path’ because I learned design, then customer service, then entrepreneurship itself, before bridging the gap to engineering with my latest placement,” McLeod said.
He said the main benefit for him has been to get his foot in the door of the entrepreneurial world.
“Before doing this, I couldn’t possibly have thought of running an engineering business,” he said. “It also makes for a really quality CO-OP experience.”
The program is aiming for an official launch during Entrepreneurship Week, so watch its website for more information.