The Innovator Skills Initiative (ISI) grant program is helping startups hire students across BC! How does it work? Startups get funds to grow their teams, while students get some hands-on work experience and entrepreneurial training before they graduate.

What’s it like for participants? We interviewed with grant recipient Scott Hirsch, from TalentMarketplace and their student: former counsellor-turned-developer, Ilinca Pascu.

Tell us a bit about TalentMarketplace

Scott: TalentMarketplace is an online, professional recruitment platform for project managers, business analysts, and coordinators looking for work. Users make a profile on site, then we provide the pre-screening, pre-vetting, phone check, and resume review, before making candidates’ profiles available to employers.

Why did you apply for the ISI grant?

Scott: We’re primarily a 100% revenue funded organization. We were looking for some very strong development talent, so having a little bit of extra cash in hand allowed us to make a stronger offer and keep someone on longer. It made a big difference to us.

How did hiring a student help your startup?

Scott: So many ways–the development work that our student, Ilinca, has produced so far has been instrumental to us. She has created a new step-by-step wizard for our candidate registration process based on wireframes we had already scoped out. We are now rolling that out.

Besides her development skills, she has excellent soft skills. She raises company morale, brings new perspectives to the team, and adds diversity to our team of three guys.

Any success stories?

Scott: Besides the candidate registration process that is getting rolled out, there have been smaller successes along the way too, such as ramping up on code base, and creating design pieces on some of the sub sites we have like our FAQ and pricing pages. We absolutely love those.

Ilinca: Taking part in marketing work–l’ve been lucky to be able to give my input on our marketing projects, and my psychology background has helped me come up with some ideas. I’ve also had the opportunity as a junior developer to lead some projects.

Scott: She did an excellent job of managing a team of 4 junior developers to create a candidate profile page.

Ilinca: I got to learn a lot about the business processes–although I don’t consider myself a super “businessy” person, they brought me in on every meeting, were open to any idea I brought to the table, and helped me understand why something didn’t make sense–or why it would work.

What was the experience like to work with a student?

Scott: It is a really good experience. It’s great to work with folks that come to the table with new, fresh, perspective–it pushes us to see how robust our processes are, since junior people need processes and documentation in place. Senior folks tend to assume processes already or bring them to the table already.

We’ve kind of scaled this process to a certain extent now. By successfully onboarding Ilinca, we’ve solidified the process for onboarding others.

Why would you recommend the program?

Scott: I would 100% recommend it. The grant gives opportunities to students to enter the workplace while taking their studies.

Ilinca: And it gives students enough money to live while also going to school–which is a huge thing for Vancouver.

Scott: Having extra money in hand gave us a more powerful position in the job market–that is something that without external investment is difficult– to get a quality developer in the door.

How did it benefit you (Ilinca) to work with the company?

Ilinca: It allowed me to basically get my foot in the door as a developer. I started with them– by working with them, it helped me grow in my field in a way I never thought I would in a few months.

When you work in a small company, you can be involved in all company processes, sit in on all the meetings, and be part of the team. Even though it’s not my company, I’m rooting for them and working with them towards the same goal. I’ve also gained some networking opportunities–I’ve met a lot of people that have helped me grow in my career.

Did you have work experience before this?

Ilinca: No–I was recently a grad of Lighthouse Labs. I had other job offers, but I loved TalentMarketplace from the moment that I met them, and this grant helped me stay here and us stay together.

Why would you recommend other students get involved?

Ilinca: Because it allows them to go to school and be paid a wage that they’re able to survive on–which is what every student wants to hear. A lot of startups end up involving a junior or new student in a lot of their processes–not just what they’re hired on for. When they’re in the company, they might be open to other paths, and after the program is over, they might decide to do something else.

I was previously a counsellor and decided to move on to coding. I’ve always liked coding and computers, after years of counselling, I decided to go with my passions. I think it has a lot to do with the soft skills. I like design a lot –it helps with creating the application itself, I can see the UX changes, take on the user perspective.

Scott: Because Ilinca is a counsellor, she’s able to speak to us better, and the business stakeholders better. She’s able to communicate with us extremely effectively and break down tech concepts really well for us.

Any parting thoughts?

Ilinca: Thank you!

Scott: I just want to give a really big thank you– this grant really makes a big difference for us. We appreciate it genuinely–it would have slowed down the company a lot more if it wasn’t available.

Applications open

Interested in applying to the ISI grant program? Applications are open. Your BC-based tech company or startup could receive up to $10,000 a year to hire a post-secondary student.

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