Scaling up: Internship program gives students a taste of the high-tech start-up sector

Corporate Relations Team

The Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science Corporate Relations team - Industry Liason Associate Nick Gregg, Projects Coordinator Nadia ter Stege, Director Chelsea Elliott, and Associate Dean Dr. Shahram Yousefi - spearhead many initiatives to help further equip Queen's engineering students for the workforce, including The Queen's Engineering Professional Scale-Up Program (QEPSUP). 

A new professional experience program is giving engineering students amazing opportunities to make connections in the high-tech sector, while gaining international experience working with start-up and scale-up work environments. The Queen’s Engineering Professional Scale-Up Program (QEPSUP) is a pilot program designed for students who are adaptable, willing to take risks, and passionate about working with innovative, fast-growth organizations.

The QEPSUP pilot program is part of the Queen’s Undergraduate Internship Program and is led by the new FEAS Corporate Relations office, which runs career-related support services for engineering students.

The pilot includes a number of new, unique services and opportunities not previously available for engineering students, and allows students to participate in internships for 12 or 16 months or two back-to-back eight-month placements when available.

Created and led by Dr. Shahram Yousefi, the Faculty’s Associate Dean, Corporate Relations, the program features specialized job boards for scale-up internships, and hands-on, group and one-on-one workshops on identifying fit for a professional experience opportunity and successfully navigating interviews. Participation in the program is competitive and limited to those who demonstrate adaptability for this kind of opportunity.

Dr. Yousefi says that the program is perfect for students who are looking for a challenge and an entry into the high-tech and start-up sectors. “In our pilot phase, we have focused on growth positions in Silicon Valley,” he says. “The culture in Silicon Valley is very ‘can do, will do’. By introducing and promoting our unique engineering brand with these employers, we hope these internships put a bit of Silicon Valley in our students.”

Queen’s student Angelo Lu, who is currently five months into the program in California, says that a major benefit of the internship is the ability to take risks and learn from them. “One thing that I’ve learned to do so far is to accept a bit more risk than I usually would,” he says. “In this industry, it seems that you are able to take a lot more risk; you can build and break things, then solve those problems.”

Students in the program receive support both from Queen’s and their employers. Along with networking events and ongoing guidance from Dr. Yousefi students get lots of help from employers, who provide health insurance, work visas and even temporary accommodations. The pay is competitive, and there are ample opportunities for students to make professional connections in both the U.S. and Canada.

Joshua of Cisco Meraki says that the program is a valuable one for employers who are eager to seek out the best talent. "The QEPSUP program allow us to both shore up short-term headcount challenges as well as help build a pipeline for full-time highly qualified hires,” he says. “Here at the 5-6 month mark, it’s proven to be extremely worthwhile and we’re looking to double our investment from 2 students to 4."

Now in its second year, the program has grown from 10 to 37 students, and continues to attract new employers who may not have known about Queen’s previously. “Our students have unique qualities, particularly in terms of their collaborative attitude and ability to work well in a multi-disciplinary environment,” says Dr. Yousefi. “Once employers get to know them, they want more of them on their team.”