WINDSOR, ONT. -- A first-of-its kind program is offering an unexpected resource for businesses looking to adapt during the pandemic — top local business students.

“We do this through taking advantage of the talent that is at universities to solve industry problems,” says Mitacs CEO John Hepburn.

Mitacs, a national non-for profit organization that help solve business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions, has launched its Business Strategy Internship (BSI).

Students from University of Windsor’s Odette School of Business (OSB) and other post-secondary intuitions across Canada are being matched to employers looking for help to grow their operations during a changing economy.

Through the help of government funding, Mitacs is able to cover half of the costs to bring on a student employee for the four-month internship. Employers will pay roughly $5,000 of the student’s $10,000 stipend.

“We’ve put about a thousand business students in the last nine months into companies to help with this,” says Hepburn. “What’s unique about this program is it links the university talent directly to the company’s problems, so it’s not just a work placement.”

Windsor-based thermal engineering company, Acrolab, was one of the companies that took advantage of this subsidized program.

After being approached with a lucrative space sector contract that involved building 400 units per month, it needed an extra hand to keep up with demand and develop a strategic business approach.

Mitacs intern and OSB student Katrina Manzocco was hired by Acrolab to devise a strategy to market to the space sector.

“She helped me analyze our current internal processes here in regards to manufacturing. This opportunity presented itself as potential to increase our production capacity with a brand new product we weren't necessary set up for,” says Acrolab CEO John Hodgins.

With many internships cancelled due to COVID-19, Manzocco says this opportunity gave her invaluable work experience.

“Especially in this job market it’s so important to demonstrate versatility and willing to adapt, try new things and push yourself off to the deep end,” she says. “I feel that this internship did just that for me.”

Local non-profit organization, Women of Windsor Collaborative, also benefited from the expertise of a top local business student.

The organization, which helps women connect with mentors for career advice, hired a Mitacs intern to help manage social media and online seminars. 

“We were able to subsidize some of that funding. We’ve honestly been able to launch some of our programs way more in advance,” says Sierra Scott, VP of operations for the Mentorship Collaborative.

“The Mitacs BSI program is a win for all partners involved,” said OSB Dean Mitchell Fields in a news release. “Our students obtain invaluable real-world experience, businesses benefit from our expertise, and the university benefits from solidifying an important partnership in the community.

Hepburn says demand for Mitacs’ research-based solutions have skyrocketed and expects the trend to continue.

“We’ve increased our business by almost doubling in one year that because the demand is there, companies need to innovate they need to change,” he says.