By Tyrone Burke

Not all students have access to the same opportunities. Members of underrepresented groups often need to invest more effort to obtain opportunities that others might take for granted.

“It’s important to recognize that these challenges exist, and hopefully offset them through initiatives like the ELITE Program for Black Youth,” says Rob Langlois, Associate Dean – Student Success in Carleton University’s Faculty of Engineering and Design.

“It places young people in funded internships, and seeks to give them a leg up, so that they are on more equal footing with other students.”

Short for Experiential Learning in Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship, the ELITE program offers Black youth experiential learning and work integrated training in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Interns are hosted by experienced professionals with the expertise to provide technical support and coaching.

ELITE is delivered in partnership with the University of Alberta, which launched the program in 2021. Carleton’s first cohort of five interns in 2022 marked ELITE’s first foray outside of Alberta, and the program is poised to grow. It plans to fund between seven and ten student work placements, which are supplemented by a 16-week wellness and coaching series, and an 8-week entrepreneurship workshop series.

“ELITE aims to equip participants with the knowledge and skills to promote upward mobility in their careers,” says Langlois. “Technical expertise is important, but so are networking skills, and the ability to take good ideas and run with them.

Students need to be equipped with the skills to interact with other people and deal with workplace challenges, as well as consider their time and well-being. That is the advantage that ELITE offers over a regular internship.”

Nura Hashi completed an internship at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, where the third year Industrial Design student worked on designs that were used internally and at the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis Congress, held in London, England in July 2022. This was tangible and relevant work experience, but Hashi found ELITE’s workshops and mentorship to be just as valuable.

“The ELITE program enriched my life on an academic level, but also on a personal level,” Hashi says.

Third year Industrial Design student Nura Hashi completed her internship with the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute through the ELITE Program.

“My supervisor Nicole is a great communicator and provided me with tremendous support and guidance throughout mywork term. During my work placement, I got in the habit of thinking critically and trying to solve problems myself. And if I could not, I would move to the next stage and ask for help. That allowed me to challenge myself.”

“I also got comfortable not knowing everything, and I came to a place where I would tell myself that I might understand something, but I’m nowhere near an expert. That I am learning and that’s okay. And I am leaving with more knowledge than I came in with.”

For Richard Egwabor, who completed a work placement in Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design, the ELITE program helped develop technical skills, as well as the soft skills that are needed to progress in your career.

“It was a really eye-opening experience, and was really useful in helping me learn how to learn,” says Egwabor, a fourth year Aerospace Engineering student.

“It developed my technical knowledge of how to use the programming language MATLAB, and how to work with a team. I have worked in team projects throughout my school, but it was really helpful to do it in this environment.”

Egawabor also credits ELITE for developing his presentation and writing skills.

“During program meetings, we made presentations about our work. The program was helpful in learning to organize my thoughts, and write this type of paper.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2023 in , , , , ,
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