When it comes to gaining practical work experience, students and families often feel limited. There’s a belief that there is more competition out there vying for the opportunities in the market place. We’ve all heard that there’s just simply not enough practical experience yet the kids coming out of colleges and universities are well educated. According to research from the Strada Institute for the Future of Work, 43% of recent graduates are now underemployed – that is, working in jobs that don’t require their hard-earned degrees. But that’s not all, they are also facing challenges, in part, by corporate executives that often view graduates as unprepared for the real world. The research also suggested a lack of access to tangible experiences, such as internships, may actually perpetuate equity gaps in the workplace. So, it is a classic case of the “chicken before the egg”?

Enter Riipen, a Vancouver-based experiential education platform that enables companies to connect with post-secondary schools on real-world projects. Currently, there are 150 platform partners (including RBC, Microsoft Canada, Deloitte) and schools (including the University of Toronto, McMaster University, University of Waterloo) globally active in the program offering course-related project work that’s relevant learning in today’s world. That figure? It translates to more than 5,000 employers and 40,000 students engaging in real-world experiences and not some outdated textbook lesson – and they can earn their course credit.  Recently, the company raised $5 Million in investment dollars to offer their services in more countries.

I’m curious as a mom of a university student. I checked in with Dana Stephenson, CEO of Riipen to learn how this works…

How are companies getting involved?

Companies buy an annual licensing fee to Riipen which gives them access to managing a portal and connecting with any of the post-secondary institutions that we work with. Additionally, companies can also be invited to participate by post-secondary institutions they already work with. There is no cost to this for the companies.

What’s the process of pairing up students and the workplace?

The students get paired up through their professors. The professors decide which companies get to work with the students and also decide how the students will be assigned.

What are some common concerns of students today trying to grab these opportunities to gain the much requested “work experience”?

The main concern for students is that doing a Riipen course in their classes is different from what they traditionally experience. At first, the ambiguity of solving industry problems can be a challenge.

How do students apply to this program?

Students don’t apply to Riipen – that’s part of the benefit. We work with their post-secondary schools to put these experiences directly into their classrooms.

What about employers? Many of the larger firms recruit directly from their preferred universities and programs for internships and practical experience. What makes yours different?

What makes Riipen different is that we actually get the companies to engage with students in real work like scenarios. The students are often in the classroom and in teams which makes the engagement more authentic and relevant to the student’s current field of study.

What makes Riipen different?

Riipen is different from traditional coops or internships because we put industry projects into the course curriculum. This means the students get to put what they learn into practice right away and solve real problems from employers. This is a more inclusive model since it doesn’t require the students to take time out of their studies to get the applied experience they need.

More information can be found at riipen.com