Gift to College’s School of Business will help with business productivity innovation

rbc  and niagara college representative

Representatives from RBC joined representatives from Niagara College on December 12 to announce RBC’s gift to the school’s business program. Supplied photo.

Christmas came early to Niagara College’s School of Business as a gift from RBC Foundation will enhance opportunities for students while helping small- and medium-sized enterprises increase productivity.

RBC Foundation announced earlier this week a $150,000 – pledged over a three-year period – to support NC’s Productivity Innovation Lab (PiLab). The gift was funded through RBC’s Future Launch, a 10-year $500-million commitment to help Canadian youth prepare for the jobs of tomorrow.

“We’re excited to be working with Niagara College to help bring RBC Future Launch to life,” said Steve Nixon, regional vice president, Niagara Market, RBC. Nixon added, “We have a responsibility to prepare young people for the opportunities and ambiguities of the future.”  RBC Future Launch is a 10 year commitment to helping Canadian youth prepare for the jobs of tomorrow.

“The ability to grow and adapt has improved here in the Niagara region thanks to the RBC Foundation’s significant investment in Niagara College,” said Steve Hudson, senior vice-president, Academic and Learner Services, Niagara College. “RBC’s support is a testament to the unparalleled experiential learning we offer our students, and will open the door to even more opportunities for them to assist SMEs seeking to enhance productivity and innovation.”

Launched in 2013, PiLab offers a framework to help small- and medium-sized businesses achieve sustainable productivity gains while providing valuable experiential opportunities for students within NC’s School of Business and Management Studies. Through PiLab, students assist SMEs with industry research, technology adoption and idea testing to support productivity challenges, business strategy, branding, and innovation.

“Working at PiLab offers students a whole different level of experience,” said Dawit Eshetu, associate dean, School of Business. “While our students have done course-based research before, at PiLab they are elevated to a consultant role as industry solution-seekers.”

Since its inception PiLab has assisted 10 small businesses while it has provided 15 students with work experience, and engaged 75 students from the School of Business and Management Studies.

Eshetu noted that RBC’s gift will boost PiLab’s outreach significantly during the next three years. It is expected to create up to 30 part-time paid positions for students, who will gain experience working directly with clients, and help to create new course curriculum and workshops to expand opportunities for other Business students.

About 300 Business students are expected to work on PiLab projects during the next three years, thanks to RBC Foundation’s gift.

Funds will also support students working on PiLab projects through mentorship and seminars focused on research, communication, problem solving, and data analytics, specific to the projects at hand; and will  ensure that faculty are trained in the latest technological advances. Local RBC employees will also participate as guest speakers and mentors for students.

“The partnership with RBC allows us to create more practical learning and networking opportunities that create much-needed workplace skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, digital competencies and teamwork,” said Eshetu. “It also helps us build our capacity to provide additional quality experiential opportunities through projects which involve students directly with industry partners.”

News of RBC Foundation’s gift was welcomed by students Adam Sheridan and Stephen Moss who work as student consultants for PiLab while studying in Bachelor of Business Administration (International Commerce and Global Development) program.

Currently working on a project for a Toronto-based startup company, Sheridan and Moss are developing a plan to incorporate the project work for their client into a classroom project for second-term students in the International Business Management graduate certificate program. The pilot project will kick off in January and the results will be presented to the client in April.

“Working with PiLab has truly been enriching. It has provided me with hands-on experience working with clients, as well as mentoring, working with other students on projects in almost a managing role, as we liaise with them and our clients,” said Sheridan. “I’m excited that even more students in our program will benefit from this experience through RBC Foundation’s gift.”

“For me, working at PiLab has really opened my eyes to future opportunities,” said Moss, a lifelong Niagara resident. “I have a two-year-old daughter at home now and I want to make her proud.”

Recent industry partner Borgo Contract Seating applauded the assistance it has received through NC’s PiLab. PiLab assisted Borgo with implementing 5S and setting the building blocks for its lean management system. More recently, from 2015-2018, the company also worked with PiLab on a project which focused on researching and understanding the landscape of classrooms of the future.

“Being able to work with young bright minds along with well-informed professionals was the perfect fit,” said Lucas Spassiani, vice-president of Borgo. “Their hands-on approach helped us put in a system that works to meet our specific needs and they have left us with the tools to train future employees, effectively and easily.

“We couldn’t be happier with the outcome and look forwarded to our future projects.”

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