More Valuable Than You Might Think

With blossoming demand for humanities ­graduates in a STEM world, a new student internship ­program places liberal arts students in the local tech sector

Photo: Western University intern, Alexandru Ion, and Polar Imaging director of business development, Steve Todd

IT’S NO SECRET that it can be tough for university students to find ­meaningful summer employment. And conventional wisdom holds that it can be even tougher for liberal arts students compared to their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) counterparts.

Well, not so fast. As it turns out, technology companies North America-wide are hiring humanities students at a rapid clip. From sales-related jobs to marketing and business positions, the tech market is turning to liberal arts and business graduates armed with ­creativity and critical-thinking skills.

With the launch of a new internship program, Western University is looking to complement this trend by connecting liberal arts students with London’s ­technology companies.

The Liberal Arts Summer Internship Program will provide students from a variety of Western faculties with an ­opportunity to complete a paid internship at a local tech firm—and earn an academic credit for their effort.
Eligible employers will be reimbursed 25 per cent of an intern’s wages (up to $3,000) thanks to support from the province. They may also qualify for additional tax credits.

“Liberal arts students have a lot of skills that are transferable to the tech sector. They are strong ­communicators, creative thinkers and used to flexibility in their learning” —Diana Milanovic

Currently, students from non-STEM faculties are frequently underrepresented in formal experiential learning activities, says Diana Milanovic, internship coordinator, liberal arts, at Western University’s Student Success Centre.

“Liberal arts students have a lot of skills that are transferable to the tech sector,” she says. “They are strong communicators, creative thinkers and used to flexibility in their learning.”

Details of the multi-disciplinary summer internship program will be revealed this fall in anticipation of summer 2019.

“We are looking to place 55 students next summer,” says Milanovic, who is meeting with representatives from London’s small- to medium-sized technology firms to promote the initiative.

Alexandru Ion was one of five Western students to land a paid internship as part of a pilot project launched this summer.

Alexandru Ion and Steve Todd

Ion was placed at Polar Imaging, where he helped the information ­management company analyze their overall marketing strategy and how they interact with clients.

“I applied for the internship program so I could gain real-world experience of what I’ve been learning at school,” he says. ” It’s nice to tie the two together.”

Steve Todd is Polar Imaging’s director of business development. This summer was the ­company’s first experience with an intern, but he says it won’t be the last.

“Western made it a seamless ­process,” Todd notes. “I was surprised by the ­calibre of candidates. It was hard to choose one person, but I think we chose the right one.”

Polar Imaging hopes to hire another student intern next summer and has already offered to extend Ion’s placement for another eight months. Then, he’ll return to Western, complete his degree, and enter the workforce with plenty of hands-on experience.

The portal for the Liberal Arts Summer Internship Program is expected to launch this fall at www.sucess.uwo.ca Nicole Laidler