› MBIOTECH WORK TERMS • ALIVE AND WELL IN THE COVID-19 ERA
The MBiotech Co-Op Work Term Program is a highly reputed, supervised work experience that has intentional learning outcomes and goals for students. Our students benefit greatly by engaging in a well-coordinated and meaningful internship that is carefully planned and monitored by academic staff and an internship coordinator in collaboration with external partners. Traditionally MBiotech internships have been conducted in-person for 8-12 months at an organization’s workplace. Since the circumstances surrounding COVID- preclude an in-person experience, internships are now happening remotely with some in-person elements.
› Last Co-Op Cycle • Winter/Summer 2020 Work Terms
It’s been said that the only constant is change, a statement that feels all the more relevant in the midst of an unfolding global pandemic. The rapidly changing plans due to COVID-19 are testing both employers and interns alike, and MBiotech students from the Class of 2021 were the first major group to enter the rapidly changing work world COVID-19 has created.
All 37 MBiotech students (BioPh stream) from the Class of 2021 commenced their internships as normal in January 2020. For many people, the lockdown brought on by COVID-19 in March 2020 meant putting life on hold. Thankfully, work placements of MBiotech students in 17 biotech/biopharmaceutical companies across GTA were not interrupted and had transitioned to working from home. Companies committed to our Program worked out the logistics of remote work and shipped technology hardware and other essentials to interns.
All 12 MBiotech Digital Health Technologies (DHT stream) students from the Class of 2021 were placed in midst of the pandemic and started their internships as intended in May 2020. The ‘DHTs’ experienced every aspect of their internship journey in a virtual world created by COVID-19, including the work place orientation and onboarding processes. Companies committed to our program worked out the logistics of remote work and shipped technology hardware and other essentials to interns.
Currently, 100% of our students from the Class of 2021 (both BioPh and DHT) are working full time, that allows students to earn their work-term credit while working remotely, and most importantly, positions them to have a meaningful and valuable learning experience even in the midst of global pandemic.
To extend support to students working remotely during these unprecedented situations, we conducted a series of virtual seminars and yoga sessions that were well attended. Furthermore, we analyzed the status of each student by conducting a short survey for students and employers. We also performed virtual check-ins with employers to discuss the progress of each student and assignments. Our sponsors admire the work done by MBiotech interns from both streams of the MBiotech Program despite working remotely and remarked how quickly MBiotech students adapted to new normal and remote experiences by putting pieces together and realizing how important is their contribution to society during this pandemic situation. Some sponsors commented about the self-motivation they displayed and the unique contributions of the MBiotech intern to the entire team and the company.
According to sponsors, the bigger challenge was changing the styles of the internship projects. Companies adapted very quickly by creating more group-based projects that may replicate some of the interactions interns would normally get with full-time employees, and their intern colleagues, in a workplace setting. Some firms are trying to recreate the cultural aspects of the programs virtually. Despite the remote nature of these internships, the students were able to easily connect with one another and engage on projects together.
› Current Co-Op Cycle • Winter & Summer 2021 Work Term
The entire UTM community has felt the impact of COVID-19. Faculty, staff, and students have all had their own unique experience in coping with the global pandemic. When courses moved online to adhere to public health regulations for COVID-19, hands-on lab courses for MBiotech Program seemed impossible to run. Despite all these challenges, our new batch of MBiotech (Class of 2022) was started in June 2020. As MBiotech is a unique Program that involves hands-on practical laboratory training modules, our Program Directors, in collaboration with the Director of IMI and University administrators, have worked tirelessly to find unique and innovative ways to address the new social distancing challenges, and to safeguard MBiotech students’ opportunities to continue to gain the essential hands-on learning that the Program is known for, even during these difficult months.
In a changing job landscape, we realized that now is the time for flexibility and compassion for our students, who are adjusting to massive, unforeseen changes. MBiotech faculty and staff are taking every step to aid students as they seek employment for Winter 2021 work term. With industry trends shifting in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are putting practices and steps in place to prepare the current MBiotech students (Class of 2022) to help them navigate the virtual employment landscape constrained by the global pandemic. We moved all our pre-work term courses and activities to online platform including seminars, networking, company info sessions, employer engagement and encourages stakeholders to use phone or video conferencing to conduct interviews where face-to-face interactions are not advised.
Through strategic initiatives and partnerships, we were able to secure a good number of co-op positions for our current batch. 100 per cent of our Biopharma and DHT students from the Class of 2022 have already secured one year work placement starting in January 2021 & May 2021!
Our goal is to showcase strong institutional responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and provide MBiotech students with a very supportive learning environment to cop up with the global pandemic and build a successful career in biopharma or digital health landscape.
› COVID-19 Disruptions • Financial Support Programs for Students and Employers
- Employment Insurance:
- Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
- Student Loans
- Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
- Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP)
- Work Sharing Program (for co-op students who qualify for EI)
- Supplementary Unemployment Benefits (SUB) Plan (for co-op students who do qualify for EI)
Employer and Student Feedback & Testimonials
› Biopharma Stream • Employers
“Andrea has been doing a fantastic job! She’s works independently and delivers high quality output. In addition to helping out with different projects, she’s also led some of the strategic market access work for our diabetes portfolio. She’s been very collaborative and works well in the different teams. She’s also had the chance to present to senior leadership and did a great job!”
“Ashley has been well-prepared for an internship in Market Access. She is a willing learner and always available to help other staff members as needed. Ashley is willing to take on stretch projects and even creatively thought of developing a manual to help interns with their orientation to PAS and to Market Access”
“Alex is an absolute PLEASURE to have on our team. She has received extremely positive feedback from her project leads, team members and other colleagues. She is a very high performer and has gone above and beyond to support her team during this difficult time. Alex has even had the opportunity to be a mentor for newer members of the team”
› Biopharma Stream • Students
“My placement has provided me with opportunities to grow within my specific department. For example I have been able to create and run training sessions for my entire department, participate in meetings with the global teams, and expand the scope of my work beyond what others in my role are typically assigned to do.”
“The study that I started on in January got pushed into Q2 of 2021 due to COVID, so unfortunately all start-up activities had to come to a pause until next year. I was excited though when my manager transferred me to a new study in a different therapeutic area, and now I am beginning the study start-up process over again with new sites. So overall, the COVID situation has been interesting, because it allowed me to start on a new study and learn a new therapeutic area.”
“This work-term was more challenging and mentally stimulating than the last as they have begun to provide me with more responsibility. This includes providing me with sole accountability over the data management of a study as well providing me with opportunities to get involved in internal initiatives. While the work is more challenging and more is at stake, I have been able to develop my leadership skills further as I am now leading a global team of functional service providers for the study. I am looking forward to the next work term as I am going to transition into the Data Quality Lead role of another study as well, so I will be involved in two separate teams.”
› DHT Stream • Employers
“Jinil’s understanding of the business has increased significantly over the last three months, as has her knowledge of data flow, connections, dependencies and impact of source data on downstream systems. As a very quick learner, Jinil has similarly developed her technical skills in data management. She approaches her assignments as a highly motivated member of our team.”
“I would like to highlight the outstanding level of initiative Cassandra has. The circumstances of this times are less than ideal for an onboarding process and she has actively seek her development, and different ways to support the organization during this time. I specially appreciate her humility to tackle all tasks with the same commitment. I also believe Cassandra has a natural talent to work with data, she has shown a logical way of thinking that is necessary for this line of work. She has shown great social and organizational skills, so she could also consider a career in the Project Management spectrum.”
› DHT Stream • Students
“I’m really happy so far with my work term, it’s gone incredibly smoothly despite onboarding and being fully remote. Working remotely does not limit the ability to gain technical skills and experience.”
“My internship experience has been great! I am constantly put on different projects that range from topics including Logistics, Master Data and Warehousing. Within these projects, I am furthering my knowledge and technical skills in machine learning and data visualization. I am loving how I am getting the opportunity to be exposed to various different topics/projects and to see projects being completed. I cannot wait for what skills I will develop and projects I will work on in the next coming months.”
“I am happy with the onboarding process at Biogen and how quickly the company was able to set up all technology to set us up for success to work at home. The entire process was seamless. In addition, all onboarding materials were well thought out and an extensive plan was developed not only online but learning through meetings and networking with people at the company.”