Innovation is simply the understanding and knowledge that there is an efficient way of doing something - achieving a set task or goal. However, arriving at an innovative idea requires creative thinking, stepping outside the box, and oftentimes teamwork or partnership. But how can employers make sure they stay innovative?
Bob Bezpalko, the Executive Director of Alberta HUB has engaged over 20 students through the Rural Roots Initiative of the Rural Development Network.
He shares his insight on how work-integrated learning (WIL) supports innovative business solutions.
Work-integrated learning allows employers to outsource various aspects of a complex project. For instance, Bob’s organization had plans to establish a distribution location in Vegreville. However, the business needed an in-depth analysis of the viability of Vegreville as a suitable distribution centre to make informed decisions.
Through the WIL program, Bob outsourced this task to skilled post-secondary students in Canada. This gave Bob and other employees of Alberta HUB the capacity and time to focus on more complex aspects of the distribution project. Bob saw the value in working with students by leveraging their knowledge and skills.
“I believe WIL facilitates innovation. Our project required thinking outside the box and seeing the world as it is today, and defining trends that will change how business is done,” says Bob. He described his WIL experience as “very rewarding and successful.”
Engaging WIL students increases the capacity for success of any project. For innovation to thrive, employers must have a clear understanding of the complexity of their business challenges and provide student talent with the flexibility and space to bring innovative ideas forward. .
While working with Bob, WIL students creatively undertook an analysis of the relative industry, transportation and logistical opportunities, geographic and socioeconomic factors, and provided an extensive report that delivered the required outcomes.
“Our organization focuses on increasing wealth in our region which provides opportunities for our communities to grow. WIL provided the necessary capacity to gather information and formulate recommendations on best ways to proceed thus increasing the opportunity for success,” Bob explains.
These WIL students had research capabilities, skilled in marketing and human resource management to name a few. From his experience, Bob notes that while WIL students bring quality skill sets to any project, it is the responsibility of employers to provide all important information for a successful project.
Working with post-secondary students can help businesses develop strategies to meet their mandates. To achieve this, Bob says it is important for employers to “define the problem they are trying to solve” so students fully understand the expected deliverables.
“The students were very professional and showed great interest in executing the project. The result was an excellent report that detailed the required information and recommendations for the next steps in the short and long term.,” adds Bob.
Working with RDN’s WIL initiative also provided Bob with an insight into the future of Canada’s workforce. He urges more organizations to tap into the unlimited human resources WIL offers. “This program can help employers and organizations like Alberta HUB maintain operations and assist in developing a strategy to meet our mandates,” says Bob.
Post-secondary students across Canada are searching for opportunities to use their acquired skills in real-life situations to enhance their portfolios and resumes. Businesses have a chance to benefit from this pool of innovative and creative talent to meet their needs.
“[Rural Roots] program assists in developing a partnership with post-secondary institutions allowing the opportunity to address current and future labour needs,” Bob concludes.
Bob Bezpalko is the Executive Director of Alberta HUB. He began his career towards Economic Development in radio where he developed his communication and marketing skills. This gave Bob the opportunity to understand that the most important skill needed to communicate is "listening".
Over the years he has gained extensive experience in project management, marketing, and strategic planning. He has a sincere passion for working with people in a team environment.
In his position as a regional economic development professional, Bob has had the opportunity to lead an alliance of municipalities, First Nations, Metis Settlements, colleges and business/industry to enhance the quality of life in his region. Working collaboratively with numerous other organizations and government departments has enhanced positive results.