Bridging the gap between classrooms and careers

Ian and Helgi Soutar
Ian and Helgi Soutar, during a roundtable discussion with BCom students about career preparation.

“Our students are concerned not only with getting a good education, but with what they will do with this education,” says Marie-José Beaudin, Executive Director of the Soutar Career Centre (SCC) in the Desautels Faculty of Management. “So we’ve been developing different channels to help them engage with the professional world and find the career of their choice.”

Beaudin’s efforts have been significantly bolstered by a $1-million donation from Ian Soutar, BEng’58, and Helgi Soutar, BSc’58, along with substantial gifts from Donald Lewtas, BCom’75, and the members of the Desautels Faculty Advisory Board, which have helped her to double the number of undergraduate advisors in the past five years, extend connections with employers across Canada and the world, and establish processes to ensure students begin career preparations when they begin their studies.

“I had a great time as a student at McGill,” says Soutar, a founding member of the MSBi investment group (now iNovia Capital). “And I want everyone to get as much out of it as I did.”

Undergraduates can now draw upon the expertise of advisors and attend SCC workshops – last year there were almost 200 – to define and prepare for their professional lives. They learn about the full range of opportunities through the Career Discovery Series, which involves seminars, speakers and presentations illuminating different industries and sectors. The recently launched online BCom portal also provides information on everything from case studies, entrepreneurship and financing to mentoring and internships – “so they have one stop that gives them everything they need,” explains Beaudin.

In addition, the SCC has reached out to enlist alumni to serve as undergraduate mentors, sharing knowledge and helping students define their interests and seek internships. “Our goal is to ensure every BCom student has an internship,” she says.

MBA students receive similar services and expertise, and their program includes a stringent, career-related component supported by the SCC – one reason for its impressive 95% placement rate, which is the highest in Canada and among the highest in the world. Similarly, post-graduation compensation levels are also among the highest in Canada. “We are teaching students to identify and leverage all the resources they have at hand,” says Beaudin. “We aim to empower our students.”