May 17 to 19, 2023 marked the first in-person Experience Ventures National Conference, which saw partners from post-secondary institutions across the country gather in Banff, Alberta to reflect on the successes and lessons learned from delivering more than 3,800 entrepreneurial thinking placements. The conference provided a platform for engaging face-to-face discussions, exchanging best practices, and deepening connections, all in line with the shared vision of fostering entrepreneurial thinking amongst the next generation of leaders in Canada.
Experience Ventures is powered by the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking at the University of Calgary. It helps post-secondary students to become future-ready by working alongside real-world innovators through entrepreneurial thinking placements with the goal to develop critical skills that will enable students to confidently start their careers.
“Experience Ventures has continued to evolve since the beginning of the program in 2021 and seeing the continued growth and interest surrounding this initiative from our partners and ventures has been incredibly rewarding,” said Anica Vasic, Director, Talent at the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking. “We’re inspired each time we’re able to set students up for success through one of our placements and see those students take the skills that they have developed and apply them to any challenge or opportunity that they come up against. Working with our partners across Canada to fulfill these placements has allowed the program to grow and for us to share even more success stories from this incredible network of schools.”
The conference presented a dynamic networking experience where partners from 12 post-secondary institutions came together to share insights, discuss challenges, and explore opportunities. These interactions allowed the Experience Ventures team to strengthen connections and reaffirm the commitment to transforming the landscape of entrepreneurial education across Canada.
Partner schools in attendance, in addition to the University of Calgary, included:
“It was a pleasure to formally connect with experts in fields related to innovation, entrepreneurship, and work-integrated learning from across Canada,” said Dallyce Bialowas, Student Experience & Innovation Specialist at the University of Alberta. “As a network, we discovered numerous opportunities for collaboration and shared best practices to underpin this program. Together we discovered we’re not just helping students become future-ready, we’re catalysts for societal sustainability and growth.”
A highlight from the conference was the ‘Regional Realities’ activity, which saw partner schools being paired together to discuss the unique opportunities and challenges they face in their respective regions in Canada. Creating the space to learn from each partner institution the different challenges that each faces was an insightful experience. Most schools discussed challenges with where they are geographically located, as well as trying to break out of dominating industries such as oil & gas and healthcare. Hearing these takeaways from the partners helped generate ideas of working collaboratively across the network to break down some of these barriers and further amplify Experience Ventures opportunities across each diverse innovation ecosystem.
Bringing the network together not only served an opportunity to share challenges, but to celebrate the accomplishments of the Experience Ventures program. Since 2021, the program has created more than 3,800 entrepreneurial thinking placements, connected more than 600 ventures and organizations with students, and secured over $12.4 million in funding. These milestones highlight the tremendous success of providing entrepreneurial opportunities to post-secondary students nationwide and set up this national network for another successful year of the program.
Throughout the second day of sessions, the 12 network partners took the opportunity to present their Experience Ventures implementations and share their best practices with the group. They covered topics such as their Experience Ventures teams, the program’s impact at their institutions, and case studies showcasing how they foster entrepreneurial thinking and connect students to local innovation ecosystems. This knowledge exchange facilitated rich discussions and inspired innovative approaches to enhance the program’s effectiveness.
“The Experience Ventures National Conference has been a great opportunity to learn more about how other Canadian universities foster entrepreneurial thinking on their campuses,” stated Julien Lamarche, Entrepreneurship Advisor at the Université de Sherbooke. “Since experiential learning is linked with the community, every university has the opportunity to develop its own way of doing things in their region. Learning more about how it is structured and what kind of experiences are run with ventures and communities, gave us great insights on how we can improve our opportunities at our school.”
“Experience Ventures is committed to continued collaboration with the network of partners to reach and engage with more students and ventures through the entrepreneurial thinking placements across the country,” stated Vasic. “With the upcoming year, Experience Ventures looks forward to sharing the success stories of this network and working with students and ventures to develop their entrepreneurial thinking skills and leverage early talent.”