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Students look to keep graduates in Kingston

Hands-on learning program looks at local employment opportunities for Queen's grads entering labour force.

Student Consultants Ioana Tabra and Yangchen Zhang of the Queen's Business Consulting group.
Smith School of Business student Consultants Ioana Tabra (left) and Yangchen Zhang (right) of the Queen's Business Consulting group.
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Each year, Queen’s attracts thousands of students from across the country and around the world, but once they graduate many choose to leave Kingston to seek out careers elsewhere.

Fourth-year commerce students from the Smith School of Business are now seeking to understand students' perspectives regarding employment opportunities in the City of Kingston, as part of an experiential learning project within the Queen’s Business Consulting Group (QBC). The results will inform the development of a sales and marketing plan the students will present to the Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO), which commissioned the work to support efforts to increase and enhance Kingston’s labour force.

“QBC projects like this one are fantastic opportunities for our students to gain hands-on, industry-facing experience before graduating,” says QBC Director Charles Mignault, who will oversee the students’ work. “Furthermore, they find the work enriching because they are able to see the impact they can make on their clients’ missions. The project with KEDCO, for instance, could provide invaluable insight into how Kingston can continue to grow and prosper.”

Thousands of students graduate from Queen’s on an annual basis, but since 95 per cent of the student population originates from outside Kingston, improving the city’s ability to retain this intellectual capital remains an ongoing priority.

“To keep pace with the growth of local businesses and our success in attracting new international investments to the city, ensuring that Kingston has a strong workforce is essential,” says KEDCO CEO Donna Gillespie. “Retention of graduating students and attraction of alumni back to Kingston to live and work is of increasing interest. We look forward to gaining insights from students and alumni to guide our marketing efforts and talent retention strategies.”

Led by students Ioana Tabra and Yangchen Zhang, the study will seek to identify existing challenges and problems that deter students from considering a career in Kingston, highlight key factors that affect where students choose to launch their careers; and examine student perceptions about opportunities in the city and how they have evolved over the past 10 years. The pair aims to survey 3,000 members of the Queen’s community, including both current students and alumni.

“The university plays a distinctive role in the city culture, as students bring enthusiasm and vibrancy,” says Tabra, who invites current Queen’s students and alumni to fill out the survey. “We have a unique opportunity to give back to the city that has been our home-away-from-home for the duration of our degree and to see it flourish. The research we are gathering will support KEDCO in building engagement and convincing highly-skilled graduates to live and work in Kingston.”

Tabra and Zhang are two of many QBC students currently working to provide high-impact consulting advice to businesses, government, and non-profit organizations across Eastern Ontario.

Last year, students completed an operations plan for the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at Kingston Health Sciences Centre to help them take steps to lower wait times for diagnostic procedures and increase accessibility to clinics for women across the region. Recently, others created a digital marketing plan for the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs, which resulted in one of the student consultants being hired by the organization. This semester, another group of students is working on an affordable housing demand analysis for Prince Edward County.

“The QBC program always partners with clients who work in an area that supports social impact,” says Mr. Mignault. “In that space, the senior-level students not only gain the practical, problem-solving experience and client management skills that could accelerate their career readiness, but they get to make positive contributions to society.”

Participating in the Queen’s Business Consulting Group is open to all Queen’s students – not just those in commerce or other business programs.

To learn more about the program, visit the website.