Virtual Work Experience Opportunities Available Through Talent Basket

Tourism and Outdoor Recreation students now have access to international learning opportunities which count for academic credit

Bridget Stringer-Holden // News Editor

“We are under tremendous stress right now because of COVID and the continued pandemic. But, the industry will need leaders who are adaptable, who can create solutions and having an experience such as this just really helps with their competitive advantage. Digital is non-negotiable going forward, and our students need to know about data analytics, market analysis and working remotely to pull this information together.”

Stephanie Wells

Talent Basket is an online platform that pairs companies who need projects completed and students who wish to increase their digital skills through international work experience in fields such as marketing, market research or assistance with social media. What differentiates it from typical work placements is the fact that everything is conducted virtually — allowing students to work for companies overseas, while earning academic credit for their work.

Capilano University (CapU) signed an agreement with Talent Basket this fall, so that students in the Schools of Tourism Management and Outdoor Recreation Management were able to start accessing the program as a self-directed study. At the moment, there is one Bachelor of Tourism Management student, Tonia Zhao (she/her), who is a research intern for Meet and Greet Italy —an Italian destination management organization — through the program. Zhao had been talking to Stephanie Wells (she/her), the Chair of the Schools of Tourism and OREC, about finding work experience before she graduated.

The reason for Talent Basket specifically is due to Wells’ connection with founder Jason Lin, whom she met through CapU’s connection with the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). “That’s where I met [Lin], learned about Talent Basket, and knew that I wanted to bring that connection of an international work experience to our students — helping to increase their digital skills and knowledge about working remotely,” explained Wells. “Because of the global nature of our industry, I liked the breadth of companies — everything from Guam Visitor Bureau, to Tourism Slovenia and Meet and Greet Italy.”

The directed study experience counts as an upper-level elective, available to any student in second, third or fourth year who has room in their program. Typically, this includes several hours a week over a three-month period that is not confined by the academic schedule. Talent Basket has access to an online portal called Orbis, where students can see available positions on an ongoing basis — allowing them to look for a job ahead of time to see whether there’s anything they’re interested in pursuing.

There will be info sessions for students in late January, and the number of students selected to participate in the independent directed study will depend on demand. “We’re not sure what the uptake will be, but our goal right now is to to look at about six students each semester,” said Wells.

Zhao started her work placement in December, and will be continuing throughout the spring semester. Meet and Greet Italy is looking to expand their company to the Asian market, currently focusing on Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. Zhao works about 15 hours a week, but is able to arrange her work around her schedule, as long as she is available for the weekly meeting, which is midnight Vancouver time, and nine in the morning in Italy. “What I’m doing is analyzing the Asian market to find out [the company’s] target market and what kind of tourism products they can develop, and then which is the best for Asian travelers.”

The faculty lead, Kash Mardhani, works with students who are interested in this opportunity and helps them set learning outcomes and work on their reflective pieces as part of the academic work for the course. On the Talent Basket side, talent captains help students through the company’s courses and certifications that students achieve along the way. “You come with the interest and some of those skills, but then you’re also developing those skills in a very systematic way,” explains Wells.

In Zhao’s experience, the talent captains helped communicate between her and the potential employers, answering questions about the process, conducting the initial interview, and then also checking in throughout her work experience. She’s been working on the certificate program related to research, completing the TB Talks and a series of the quizzes which will earn her the certification.

“I’m graduating next year, so I wanted to have some work experience before graduation,” explained Zhao, highly recommending her Talent Basket experience so far. “It’s a very unique opportunity to work for an international company and also earn academic credit — it’s a win-win situation here.”

Although she didn’t have a marketing background, this position gave her the chance to learn marketing skills through her research. “At the beginning, I was kind of lost — when they assigned me the tasks, I didn’t really know where to start… but you can always chat with someone,” she explained, noting that the company promptly answered any questions she had over WhatsApp.

Now that she’s been doing it for just over a month, Zhao is encouraging everyone to apply because of the competitive advantage it can provide. “It was a really good experience for me, it was really worth it,” she states. “It’s really hard to get a marketing job if you don’t have the background, so I think this is a very good opportunity for students who want to do something different, or they want to try something they don’t really know about.”

To find out more about Talent Basket and the work experience they are offering to Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Management students, see CapU’s press release, or contact tourism@capilanou.ca or outdoor@capilanou.ca.

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