Multi-disciplinary placements in action: Memorial students blend skillsets for SmartICE

Jul 30th, 2020

Sarah Croft

Multi-disciplinary placements in action: Memorial students blend skillsets for SmartICE

Two Memorial students say the chance to work with someone from a different program has enhanced their experiences working for a social enterprise in Labrador.

Todd Perry, then a social work student, and business student Shawna Dicker worked for SmartICE, the world's first climate change adaptation tool that integrates traditional knowledge of sea ice with advanced data acquisition and remote monitoring technology. It operates as a social enterprise that offers training and employment opportunities for local youth as producers, operators and technicians of the technology.

The duo worked at SmartICE's Northern Production Centre in Nain.

When Mr. Perry was completing his bachelor of social work (BSW), he was employed as a youth support intern through the Centre for Social Enterprise's Work Experience (WESE) program during the summer of 2019. He helped develop programming and facilitate workshops and also offered supportive and resource counselling to help youths gain sustainable employment and more.

"Working with SmartICE gave me the opportunity to use the skills and interventions I attained while completing my social work degree, providing an invaluable opportunity to work with an incredible team and build positive and supportive relations with the youth we worked with," he said.

The Centre for Social Enterprise encourages multi-disciplinary placements for Memorial University students that allow them to collaborate with peers who have different skillsets. Together, they can overcome challenges and work to develop the social enterprise while also learning to become social leaders.

The social enterprises in which the students are placed in turn benefit from a broad set of skills and knowledge offered by students from different disciplines.

Ms. Dicker is a bachelor of business administration (BBA) student who is originally from Labrador. Her position was funded by Venture for Canada directly through SmartICE to work as a liaison between on-the-ground activities at the Northern Production Centre and the executive director located in St. John's.

"I have seen SmartICE develop and become fully established in my home community," said Ms. Dicker. "I have grown up in the area and have known the people living there but SmartICE has led me to see my community from a business perspective, which allowed me to appreciate where I come from a little more."

Multi-disciplinary placement in action

The major challenges that social enterprises try to overcome require skills and perspectives that no one discipline can bring on its own. Ms. Dicker says coming from different programs allowed her and Mr. Perry to broadly approach their work.

"[Todd] was able to illustrate key aspects of running a business, which was the humanities piece of it. I walked into my position thinking of just the materialistic things," she said. "He really brought the element of communication and support to the cohort."

Mr. Perry says working with a student from another discipline was a positive experience.

"It was a perfect collaboration … Working with colleagues with like-minded values, we were able to promote a safe, trusting and supportive environment where youth could let their guard down and thrive."

Multi-disciplinary placements allow students to learn from each other and allow social enterprises to benefit from diverse skillsets, says Carolann Harding, SmartICE executive director.

"A social enterprise is more than a business," said Ms. Harding. "A social enterprise is dynamic and has lots of moving parts. Between the social impacts and business aspects, each has a different requirement and skillset but when those skillsets merge together the skillsets become complimentary. That's when the magic happens."

Where are the students now?

Mr. Perry earned his social work degree in May 2020 and is currently working as a Mental Health and Addictions Counselor with LG Health on the north coast of Labrador in Natuashish.

Ms. Dicker is completing the third year of her business degree, while continuing to work for SmartICE part-time.

Image Caption (Left to right): Todd Perry (social work student), Rex Holwell (Northern Production Lead/Regional Operations Lead (Nunatsiavut), SmartICE), Shawna Dicker (business student), Carolann Harding (Executive Director, SmartICE).