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Chris Purves, chief technology officer for Picomole, and Sam Fisher. Image: submitted.

A Mount Allison University student will be using what he’s learned in his studies to work for a company this summer that’s tackling an issue close to his heart.

Sam Fisher will be working at Picomole, a Moncton-based medical tech company currently developing a breath test for lung cancer via breath analysis.

“I’ve had a couple of close friends and family members that have passed away from lung cancer,” says Fisher. “The work that the company is doing in early detection and early screening for lung cancer is something that really drew me into the company. That actually meshed very well with the material I’ve been studying at Mount Allison was just the cherry on top. It was everything I think I could ever hope for a summer internship.”

The chemistry student is working for Picomole under the Future Ready NB initiative, which helps students and employers access experiential learning opportunities and funding to gain real-world experience and fill labour gaps.

He met his summer employer through a class project. Picomole was one of the small businesses that participated in the Exploring Science-based Business course in the fall of last year.

CEO Steve Graham told the class about a challenge the business was encountering. The class worked in groups on solutions and then made presentations to him. He said Fisher, in particular, caught his eye.

“Through the process, he was one of the students that stood out. You can tell he was really interested. He asked a lot of questions,” says Graham ” Because of the solutions presented, I realized, ‘ok, I need a student for the summer.'”

“The support that students get financially was really appealing and just the course of getting to know him, and that fact that he knew all sorts of things about Picamole already made it really attractive to hire him for the summer.”

Graham says Fisher will focus on more business-oriented projects this summer, including developing business plans, white papers, competitive analysis and more.

“Those sorts of things that have a deep-seeding in science but need business overview applications, so that’s where he’ll be working,” he said.

It’s the ideal job for Fisher. With his mother running her own business and his dad working in administration at a national non-profit, he was always interested in business.

“I’ve always been interested in business and commerce, and chemistry was more of a background passion. When I got to Mount Allison, I was much more interested in pursuing chemistry over business or commerce,” he says.

“But now … I see myself more interested in the business aspect of chemistry, specifically, the pharmaceutical and medical device industry as opposed to specifically working in a research lab for the rest of my career.”

Depending on the needs of the employer and student, Future Ready NB can provide support in a variety of ways such as financial support, wage subsidy, or potentially cover transportation or equipment costs to increase students’ abilities to access opportunities. Graham says the Future Ready NB program allows Picomole to hire talented students to help get important work and projects done.

“It really is amazing the work ethic that the students have. They have a way of thinking that sometimes we don’t see,” says Graham. “We’re at a point where we’re transitioning. We’re getting market plans ready, we’re trying to translate our technical knowledge into more real-world writing, all those sorts of things. Having students with fresh eyes and that kind of work ethic and enthusiasm is really going to help us achieve our goals.”

For Dawn Henwood, who was one of the instructors of the  Exploring Science-based Business course at Mount Allison, initiatives like Future Ready NB play an important role in bridging the gap between students and the workforce.

“I think it’s fantastic that New Brunswick is taking this initiative and I think it’s really inspiring that all of the schools are coming together to address some real concerns in the labour market,” says Henwood.

“It’s win-win for everybody. It’s long overdue. Building that bridge, no party can do it on its own. The employer can’t do it on its own. The university can’t do it on its own.”

Now finishing up his third year of studies of Mount Allison, Fisher has seen first-hand the challenges post-secondary students and graduates face when it comes to breaking into the labour force in the province. In a climate where many young people are forced to move away for work, he thinks initiatives like Future Ready NB can help fight that.

This story is part of a series sponsored by FutureReadyNB. Previous stories: