Industry Link is a health science industry mentorship and outreach initiative dedicated to providing graduate students with effective first-hand opportunities to gain exposure, experience, and connections with health science companies and organizations. There are three main objectives to Industry Link:
- EXPOSE graduate students to alternative, non-academic career options through first-hand networking opportunities and creative engagement strategies.
- EQUIP graduate students with relevant skills and experiences that are pragmatic to the health science industry through experiential mentorship and training programs.
- ESTABLISH stronger partnerships between the academic and industrial worlds that will cultivate greater success for tomorrow’s health science sector in Ontario.
The current culture in research-based health science graduate education has created a generation of students with the mindset that professorship in academia is the sole option for future employment. However, there are currently not enough academic jobs available for the outflow of graduate students. In fact, fewer than a quarter of current PhD students are estimated to end up in full-time, tenured faculty positions in Canada, forcing the majority to seek employment in other countries or non-academic industries [1, 2].
Concerningly, a survey conducted by our team in 2016 identified that many graduate students are neither aware of, nor prepared for, the alternative careers available to them. Most notably, 89% of students did not find career services to be sufficiently helpful for industry exposure, and 71% reported that the lack of opportunity to gain first-hand experience affected their ability to discern career aspirations . Creating the proper infrastructure to transition students from academia into industry will be essential to retaining and utilizing talent that took years of schooling to nurture. Ultimately, Industry Link will serve to cultivate stronger leadership and innovation to drive the future health science industry of Canada.
 Charbonneau, L. (2011) The problem with PhD training in Canada.
 Tamburri, R. (2010) Why universities need to prepare doctoral students for careers outside academe.
 Industry Link Career Survey, 2016.
In order to meet our three major objectives listed above, we have designed a comprehensive model that divides Industry Link into two major platforms: (A) Programs and (B) Creative Engagement.
(A) Industry Link Programs
Industry Link Programs are created in order to provide graduate students with tangible opportunities to gain first-hand experience in the health science industries. We are planning to expand our curriculum to four programs to increase the breadth of our offerings and better meet the objectives.
- Industry Link Company Tours, our first program, was piloted in 2016-17 with the goal of bringing groups of students into actual health science companies to tour the workplace, form connections with employees on site, and experience the company culture. We have run tours at four companies to date, with four more trips planned before the end of the current funding cycle.
- Industry Link Part-Time Internships, our second program, will enable students to further develop the mentorship relationships formed at the initial tour and gain experience in actual intern roles. There are currently no co-op or internship opportunities offered to graduate students in the research-intensive health science programs. In contrast to the traditional full-time internship offered by organizations such as Mitacs and Ontario Centres of Excellence, the novel aspect of the Industry Link Part-Time Internship is that it may be run in conjunction with the student’s academic research. Therefore, there will be no compromise on academic productivity in order to gain valuable industry experience, likely encouraging greater participation among students. As a proof of principle, we successfully piloted the part-time internship program in 2016-17 with eight positions at two companies.
- Industry Link Consulting, our novel third program, is an experiential, academia-to-industry transitioning program that will skill-match graduate students with health science companies to solve real-world, technical cases. Graduate students will be assembled in multi-disciplinary teams to provide cost-effective consulting for partnered companies.
- Industry Link Coffee Chats, our novel fourth program, will provide graduate students with first-hand opportunities to intimately network with industry leaders in more casual, interactive settings, such as coffee shops or bars. Students will be able to learn, practice, and apply the essential skills required to “informational interview” with employers.
(B) Industry Link Creative Engagement
In addition to our programs, Industry Link aims to further shift the academic mindset and engage tech-savvy students and industries via multimedia and a multi-faceted, knowledge translation outreach campaign. Our Creative Engagement department will further expose students to the available non-academic health science careers, provide information on leading scientific discoveries and current events, and interface students with our growing network of industry partners.
- Industry Outreach, our first campaign, focuses on creating strong online presence and branding for Industry Link on social media. By showcasing our successful programs and industry partnerships through creative online multimedia, we will identify ourselves as the vanguard of academia-to-industry linking program, and incentivize many new companies to partner with us.
- Alumni Spotlight, our second campaign, aims to highlight the McMaster graduate student alumni who have transitioned into successful health science industry careers. By bringing success stories to the forefront, our priority is to emphasize the value of graduate education and create awareness of the diversity of potential careers available to graduate students.
- Industry Edge, our third campaign, involves knowledge translation of cutting-edge discoveries and innovations in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors. From rapidly-changing government funding focuses to new Canadian health science start-ups, it will be essential for Industry Link to keep students informed about current events in the industry world in order to truly prepare them for transition.
Industry Partner Formation
We will engage and seek buy-in from industry partners through telephone or in-person conversations. We will identify and compile a database of all relevant nearby companies and organizations through keyword searching for health science-related job postings on career websites, such as Indeed and LinkedIn. We will then strategize a method to connect with key decision makers within these companies through LinkedIn’s networking tools, or through referrals by existing industry partners from this past year’s pilot projects (please see Industry Collaborators below). McMaster University also offers resources, such as the Alumni Advisor Network, that can be used to find alumni within companies who may be more willing to partner with us. Depending on size and specialization, we will attempt to partner with the company to run one or more of our four programs (Company Tour, Part-Time Internship, Consulting, and/or Coffee Chats).
Company Tour Program
Our Program Team will partner with the company to design a tour intended to expose graduate students to the possible health science jobs available to them. Students will sign-up to attend tours and be chaperoned to observe the workplaces of nearby health science industries, form connections with employees, and experience company culture. We plan on running eight company tours.
Part-Time Internship Program
Our Program Team will partner with the company to identify possible internship positions and develop the recruitment process. Once all the terms have been agreed upon, we will promote the internship opportunity to all Health Science graduate students. We plan on facilitating internships at two companies.
Our Program Team will engage and partner with companies to identify specific science-related research and development issues that they are facing. We will then facilitate the formation of specialized, multi-disciplinary graduate student teams, based on matched skillset and expertise, to solve the formulated case and provide consultation for the company. We plan on running one case study consulting event.
Coffee Chat Program
Our Special Events Team will invite industry leaders to have coffee and snacks with groups of 4-6 graduate students at nearby coffee shops or bars. Students will apply with a statement of interest for the coffee chats, and most appropriately-matched students will be selected. We plan on running four coffee chat programs.
Our Creative Engagement Team will further develop our social media outlets (LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) to publish advancements at Industry Link, such as tour photos, internship testimonials, program updates, and announcements. To ensure a strong and well-curated online presence, we will utilize applications that assist with social media planning (i.e., Hootsuite).
Our Creative Engagement Team will contact successful graduate student alumni and arrange filmed interviews at their workplace. These brief interviews will focus on discussions outlining the day-to-day roles in their job and preparatory advice for graduate students interested in similar positions. These interviews will be summarized into short video clips of 3-5 minutes and shared online through our social media outlets.
Our Creative Engagement Team will translate content in the form of visual and animated infographics. These infographics will be planned using research and knowledge translational techniques and designed to be visually appealing to the audience using specialized videoscribing software (i.e., Sparkol Videoscribe© and Tawe©). They will be targeted towards educating graduate students about industry and career-related facts, statistics, and figures and circulated on our social media outlets.
- Michael Wong, Medical Science (PhD), Founder and Director of Growth and Program Development
- Yasmeen Mezil, Medical Science (PhD), Director of Creative Engagement
- William Gwynne, Medical Science (PhD), Program Manager
- Athan Dial, Kinesiology (MSc), Outreach Manager
- Chitman Josan, Medical Science (MSc), Special Events Manager
Firstly, Industry Link addresses the daunting gap in graduate education by providing students with more effective experiential learning and networking opportunities with industry leaders. We expect to see an improved ability in McMaster graduate students to determine post-graduate aspirations during their studies. In addition, we expect to see students have increased competitiveness in job applications and faster times to employment immediately following graduation due to the skills they may gain and the connections they will make. To date, we have served over 115 graduate students on tours to four companies, with sign-ups often exceeding 200% of the max tour capacity. This truly verifies the excitement amongst the students and the need for what we are providing.
Secondly, Industry Link greatly benefit companies by providing them cost-effective access to a great wealth of knowledge. For instance, we have connected two companies to eight, brilliant part-time interns, and three other companies have further reached out to us with six contract/full-time job offerings. Within the ivory towers of academia, there is arguably no greater manifestation of scientific expertise than amongst the minds of graduate students who dedicate years of their life to pioneering health research. In particular, Industry Link will be a great benefit to early-stage biotech and pharmaceutical companies that simply cannot afford access to cutting-edge literature or professional consulting.
Thirdly, Industry Link establishes a stronger network between the academic and industrial worlds, fostering greater potential for collaborative health innovation. This can further translate into a myriad of downstream benefits, such as prospective industrial funding for academic research to address the shortage of available funding in Canada. In the long term, our goal is to drive the overall growth and development of Ontario’s health science industry through the equipping and connecting of McMaster’s graduate students to local companies and organizations.
Lastly, Industry Link’s goal to better equip graduate students for post-graduation is in alignment with the ongoing commitments of McMaster’s Strategic Mandate Agreement (2014-17) to support student success and increase the competitiveness of Ontario’s postsecondary education system. We strongly believe that our idea will increase the value of the health science graduate degree, thereby influencing the next generation’s decision to pursue graduate education.
- Finalize details in all programs and develop protocols to standardize operations of each team.
- Work with Industry Link managers to identify team needs and recruit 8-12 new members to fill in roles across three teams.
- Train new members using developed protocols specific to each team.
June to August 2017
- Develop and streamline all creative engagement content in preparation for regular posting during school year.
- Partner with company to develop case study for Industry Link Consulting Program. Plan and formally write case.
- Begin industry partner formation and securing company tour dates, internship positions, consulting client, and coffee chat sessions. Confirm four company tours, one internship position, and two coffee chats by end of August 2017.
September to April 2017
- Run one company tour per month for a total of eight company tours. Continue to secure remaining four company tours.
- Facilitate two part-time internships.
- Organize one company consulting event.
- Run two coffee chat sessions per semester for a total of four coffee chat sessions.
- Manage posting of creative engagement content on social media accounts and continue to develop and translate material for various audiences.
|Michael Wong||Health Science||Medical Science (PhD)||firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Yasmeen Mezil||Health Science||Medical Science (PhD)||email@example.com|
|William Gwynne||Health Science||Medical Science (PhD)||firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Athan Dial||Health Sciences||Medical Science (PhD)||email@example.com|
|Chitman Josan||Health Science||Medical Science (MSc)||firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Chad Brown||Health Science||Biochemistry (PhD)||email@example.com|
|Sean Ng||Science||Kinesiology (MSc)||firstname.lastname@example.org|
On Social Media
- Twitter www.twitter.com/macindustrylink
- Instagram www.instagram.com/macindustrylink
- LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/company/industry-link-mcmaster
- Facebook www.facebook.com/macindustrylink
There are currently not enough academic jobs available for the outflow of graduate students, and many of these students are not prepared for non-academic, industry career options. Surveys conducted by our team identified that one of the major factors hindering students’ abilities to discern career aspirations is the lack of opportunity to gain first-hand experiences. Industry Link facilitated tours for graduate students in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Science, and Engineering to nearby companies and organizations in order to increase exposure and networking opportunities. We also ran a multi-university career conference (Academia to Industry Meeting; AIM) in March 2018, hosting 180 students from over 5 universities. We have further broken down our goals and outcomes into the various parties impacted:
Student Impact: Since our founding in May 2016, we have impacted over 400 graduate students at McMaster University through our various programs:
- Over 200 graduate students participated on 14 tours to companies.
- 180 graduate students attended our Academia to Industry Meeting (AIM) carers conference in March 2018.
- We have impacted eight additional graduate students by creating novel part-time internship programs at two companies.
- We have further brought six full-time/contract job postings from three companies to the graduate students, and organized a career seminar for students to provide insight into health science industry jobs.
- We have 140 people signed up for our mailing list. Our Twitter account has 209 followers, and our Instagram account has 369 followers.
Industry Impact: We have impacted the industry in the following ways:
- Industry Link recently signed an official partnership with Life Sciences Ontario, a life sciences hub hosting hundreds of companies across Ontario. This partnership will catalyze the development of industry partnerships, and in return, bring Life Sciences Ontario to McMaster University.
- We have contacted over 40 companies and established partnerships with over 15 of them (“partnership” with a company defined by having some form of active collaborative relationship, whether they are providing a tour, internship, event, or assisting in the relationship-building with additional companies.)
- We have further helped three companies circulate job postings to our Health Science graduate students.
Impact on Academic Network: We have impacted the academic network in the following ways:
- We have begun regular discussions with the CIHR, helping shape the national strategy for graduate education.
- Through the generous support of SGS, Michael and Yasmeen attended the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies in November 2017 to disseminate our program and findings to graduate administrators and deans across Canada.
- We partnered with Queens University to run our AIM conference, which included attendees from over five universities (including Toronto, Western, Waterloo, Guelph, Brock, and more).
- We are in discussions with Ryerson, UOIT, and Brock Universities to help them launch similar academia-to-industry student groups.
- Keep a lean team: We were ambitious after a successful 2016-17 year and grew the team too quickly in 2017-18. As a result, it was difficult to keep all members engaged and we had a few members coast through the year without contributing to our overall team objectives or vision. Furthermore, the hierarchy structure that we developed for 2017-18 was not as effective as we hoped and team adhesion was weaker than the past year. This can be damaging to morale as Industry Link is a team effort and passion is our fuel! For next year, we will focus on keeping a tighter-knit team and be more careful to select team players that are truly passionate about our vision!
- Online presence: Similar to last year, we struggled with establishing a strong online and social media presence. While the quality of our content was fantastic, we lacked in volume and quantity. To overcome this, we will be more careful to select a new member who possesses an intrinsic desire to utilize social media.
The best part of our project was our success in addressing a major pain point faced by our students. The follow quote provided by a student attendee on one of our Company Tours was one of the highlights of our year (as it spells out our exact mission):
“The tour of [Company Name] was excellent! It provided insight into opportunities within the vague realm of “industry” that students simply cannot acquire from a company website. Staff were clearly expecting us and made us feel welcomed and valued. The structure of our visit was nicely balanced between an organized tour of the office/lab spaces, medical technology simulations, and casual networking/information sessions. The intimate nature of the tour and open communication facilitated discussion that extended beyond typical first visits to a site. It was great to meet with employees from different departments and be exposed to various perspectives of the company. And the pizza lunch was a nice touch – great work orchestrating a tour on a day with a casual environment to promote interaction and constructive conversation.” – Medical Sciences PhD Student
|Category||Actual Expenses||Approved Budget|
|Company Tours Program||1119.33||2070.0|
|Growth and Development||277.09||150.00|
We would like to thank Judy West-Mays, Anthony Notenboom, Melissa Furtney, and the rest of the Medical Sciences Graduate Program Office for all their support and help. We would like to thank the Andrea Cole, Pete Self, and the rest of the SGS and SPICES team for all their support. We would like to thanks Doug Welch for supporting our attendance at the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies to disseminate our findings. We would like to thank all of our industry partners for their generosity in supporting our programs.