News / Ottawa

Work, learn and get paid: Shopify and Carleton create ‘first-in-Canada’ internship program

Carleton students are participating in a program where they spend half their time working, learning and being paid at Shopify while completing a degree.

Shopify's Anna Lambert (left) and Harry Brundage are shown at Shopify's offices in Ottawa on Friday, March 18, 2016.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Shopify's Anna Lambert (left) and Harry Brundage are shown at Shopify's offices in Ottawa on Friday, March 18, 2016.

Imagine a Grand Canyon – on one side you’ve got universities, and on the other you’ve got industry.

“Co-ops are kind of like throwing kids from one side to the other,” said Jean-Michel Lemieux, Shopify’s senior vice-president of engineering.

But Shopify and Carleton University are trying to bring together both sides of the canyon with a new internship program that sees students work at Shopify and get paid while learning course material both in the classroom and at work. Oh yeah, and Shopify also covers the tuition costs.

The two organizations recently announced the new four-year Bachelor of Computer Science internship program, which they say is the first of its kind in Canada.

It’s an attempt to teach students in a creative environment where they can learn academically but also immediately apply what they learn while getting paid.

Shopify let Carleton know of its interest in such a program last December. There are now 11 students who are seven weeks into the new program.

Natalia Kingsbury is one of the lucky 11. “I’m so happy, I can’t even explain it,” she said.

Kingsbury finished an industrial design undergraduate program at Carleton in 2014 but, with jobs a little difficult to come by, she grew interested in coding and computer science.

She was eventually told about the program with Shopify through a coding for women group she was a part of and checked it out.

“It sounded too good,” she said. “Free education (and) working at this company which is already a huge deal – it just sounded like it was a dream.”

Turns out it’s not, she said.

Shopify is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the project, hiring staff to organize the students’ learning while at work, and to pay students.

Though the program is in its first year, both Lemieux and Carleton’s head of computer science say they hope it can be developed into a model for other companies and post secondary institutions.

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