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Vital connections

Cenovus Centre takes business students behind the scenes of local companies

Student Life

By Susan White

With its cavernous ceilings and plain grey walls, the training node at Virtual Marine could easily be mistaken for a warehouse.

A group of about 20 students stand in a semi-circle.
About 20 business students recently visited Virtual Marine for a hands-on look at careers in sales and supply chain management.
Photo: Submitted

But instead of repeating lines of shelves laden with boxes and products, the open room is filled with Memorial University students learning how to save lives.

Career exposure

About 20 business students recently took in the virtual reality training simulators at the Paradise, N.L.,-based company, which develops state-of-the-art maritime safety training simulators.

“The questions [the students] ask are intelligent and insightful and shows a desire to learn.” — Karen Lacey

The students were there as part of a new program from Memorial’s Cenovus Centre of Excellence in Sales and Supply Chain Management that brings small groups of business students to local companies for a behind-the-scenes look into the worlds of sales and the supply chain.

“Most people can’t really tell you what someone in the supply chain does, or know how many roles involve sales,” said Karen Lacey, the centre’s manager. “I thought, if I could take students into businesses and let them talk to the people who are actually working in these roles, they’d have a better understanding, and it would possibly inspire them to pursue it as a career option.”

To date, the site-seeing series has brought groups to Virtual Marine and Bannerman Brewing Co. with 12 students partaking in the latter.

“The response from students so far has been great,” said Ms. Lacey. “The questions they ask are intelligent and insightful and show a desire to learn. I’ve had students drop by my office to speak more about roles in sales and supply chain management after each visit.”

‘New insight’

One of those students is Precious Okoro-Igwe, a fourth-year bachelor of commerce (co-operative) student at the Faculty of Business Administration.

Precious Okoro-Igwe, a Black woman in her early 20s, poses in front of a maritime safety training simulator at Virtual Marine.
Precious Okoro-Igwe poses in front of a maritime safety training simulator at Virtual Marine.
Photo: Submitted

Ms. Okoro-Igwe attended both outings to Bannerman Brewing Co. and Virtual Marine, which she says gave her “new insight” into the real world of business.

“Phil [Maloney, brewery owner] spoke to us about the importance of making connections within the industry,” she said. “This is vital, especially when you’re thinking of starting your own business. You could go up to someone you have a rapport with and just find out where they source their materials.”

Ms. Okoro-Igwe tried her hand at entrepreneurship in 2020 when she started a hairstyling business.

“I was inspired seeing all these amazing professionals evolve and grow from their past roles.” — Precious Okoro-Igwe

She closed it a year later and says Mr. Maloney’s advice helped her to “reflect on the things I did wrong with my own small business.”

At Virtual Marine, she was impressed with the variety of backgrounds employees brought to the company.

“I was inspired seeing all these amazing professionals evolve and grow from their past roles to come together now, working together seamlessly,” she said. “I think my biggest takeaway would be to not box yourself [in]. There’s an endless list of things you could be doing, so if you don’t like one thing, move on to the next until you find something you love.”

Retaining talent in N.L.

One of the goals of the site-seeing series is to encourage students to pursue careers in Newfoundland and Labrador by exposing them to the breadth of companies that can use their skills.

“There are so many opportunities here, and we want to encourage skilled professionals to use their talent in local industry,” said Ms. Lacey. “If we open the doors and introduce students to opportunities they didn’t know they could have here, we’ll retain talent and grow the economy and community, which benefits everyone.”

Jess Anderson, marketing and communications specialist at Virtual Marine, agrees.

She says the students are the future leaders of their industry and that the program allows companies to connect with the province’s emerging talent.

“It’s critical to connect with students to provide career guidance and show them there are many exciting roles outside traditional business settings,” Ms. Anderson said. “Virtual Marine is a global company that does important safety work, and there are so many other interesting local companies. These connections showcase that to students entering the workforce.”

The Cenovus Centre plans to offer site-seeing visits at least twice each semester. For her part, Ms. Lacey says she hopes to explore other immersive experiences for students, such as job shadowing.

“It’s exciting to see where we can take this.”

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