Halifax-based Saint Mary’s Sobey School of Business hosted its second annual South Shore Corporate Tour last month, which showcased the area’s opportunities and rural lifestyle.
The event, which hosted 39 Saint Mary’s University students on Friday, Sept. 28, displayed local businesses and entrepreneurs in action.
“One of the things that business schools do to help their students get real life experience with employers … they put on these corporate tours,” said Karn Nichols, manager at Career Services of Graduate Programs at the Sobey School of Business.
Corporate tours aren’t new to business schools, however, visiting a rural area isn’t a common practise.
“Traditionally, corporate tours tend to head out to big, sort of, centres such as Toronto, [Ont.]” Nichols said.
It was in the fall of 2016, while in Toronto for a corporate tour, the idea of showcasing rural Nova Scotia arose. In December 2016, Nichols met several stakeholders from the South Shore area and set the plan in motion.
“The idea was very simple at first, ‘let’s just get a bus of Saint Mary’s students and take them down the 103 and open the doors and let them experience what the South Shore of Nova Scotia has and let the employers understand, you know, what Saint Mary’s has to offer,’ ” she said.
Tina Hennigar, co-ordinator of NOW Lunenburg County, was involved both years.
“It was just such a really unique and a really great opportunity for us to get some master’s students from the Saint Mary’s School of Business down to the South Shore to see all the opportunities that we have,” she said. “When we talked about doing it again, it was a no-brainer.”
In September 2017, the first event brought 22 students down Highway 103.
Nichols said the trip serves as an opportunity to break down biases students might have against settling in a rural area and biases employers might have against hiring master’s students.
“We had to spend time educating and breaking down these biases that employers had against master’s students, and also biases that students had against what opportunity looked like in [the] South Shore of Nova Scotia or rural Nova Scotia,” Nichols said.
However, she added, the largest group of attendees were international students who didn’t have the same biases.
“What we found in our focus groups is that international students are quite keen to settle in. They’re open to settling in rural Nova Scotia because they can bring their families there,” she said.
Vivek Ramasamy, an international student who attended the tour, said the South Shore is appealing to him.
“That’s an area I would like to live in the future. I always have a liking to live very close to the nature (more) than living in a busy and crowded city,” he said via email. “The area was serene and beautiful.”
David Dagley, mayor of the Region of Queens Municipality, agreed.
“We pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive community, providing a lifestyle filled with opportunities for business, arts, culture, nature and adventure, all of which are found here at home,” he said via email.
Nichols said she hopes to go forward with the event next year and is interested in organizing tours of other rural areas of the province. However, she said her main goal is to someday bring a tour to meet alumni who call the South Shore home.