Mitacs is reopening applications for internships for graduate students in Ontario – University Affairs – University Affairs | Team Cansler

The research organization briefly suspended funding in the province following a significant funding shortfall.

Earlier this fall, Jennifer Drake, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carleton University, heard from one of their industry partners about a research project they had that would be ideal for a graduate student. dr Drake, who specializes in stormwater management and green infrastructure, told them there was nothing she could do to help work on the project, although she knows many students who need work and funding.

The problem, she said, stemmed from an unexpected and temporary gap in funding for new projects from Mitacs, a Canadian nonprofit that offers funding to match academics with research partners in the private sector and government. On Aug. 28, Mitacs, which also funds internships and apprenticeships nationwide for undergraduate, masters, doctoral and postdoctoral students, announced it was indefinitely suspending Ontario’s applications for all of its programs due to underfunding. Any ongoing program would continue to receive funding, and Mitacs would review and approve all applications submitted before the pause date.

About 10 weeks later, on November 3, Mitacs began notifying universities, colleges, and other stakeholders that the pause was being lifted — it would resume accepting submissions for initiatives like Accelerate, Elevate, and Globalink. (The popular Business Strategy Internship is still on hold in Ontario, as well as some other provinces, as it is a limited program and is in high demand.) Following this announcement, the Ontario Department of Colleges and Universities hired an additional 10 million dollars for the organization.

“Our government supports post-secondary students and partners through experiential learning programs such as Mitacs, which prepare students with skills and education needed for jobs in an innovative economy,” the ministry offered in a written statement college affairs.

“Mitacs is grateful to the Ontario government for their continued support,” said John Hepburn, Mitacs CEO and scientific director, who negotiated with the province to secure the new funding. “We look forward to continuing to work with the province to drive innovation and economic growth.”

During the nearly two-month hiatus, researchers like Dr. However, left Drake, the organizations they work with, and the students in the dark as to how to proceed.

Mitacs did not issue a formal press release about the bid pause but communicated directly with its partners. However, researchers have often found out about it through their universities’ research offices and social media. dr Drake said she only heard almost a week after the fact that Mitacs had reopened applications for graduate students, further delaying her ability to hire an intern and submit the required paperwork.

“There is no alternative, there is no other program,” said Dr. Drake on the funding Mitacs provides for industry and government partnerships and associated student research jobs.

Funding for all Mitacs internships comes from both the organization and the industry partner – for the Accelerate program, for example, each stakeholder provides $7,500. Of this, the student researcher receives $10,000 and the remaining $5,000 goes toward research costs. The students work together with the partner organization as well as with the professor leading the research project.

dr Drake often serves as a supervising professor, matching students with organizations such as conservation agencies to study, for example, how a piece of rainwater equipment works. The project helps this organization solve a problem, serves as the basis for the student’s thesis, and forms part of the professor’s lab work.

In its 23-year history, Mitacs has never had to stop recording programs so suddenly as this year.

“We had enough internship positions approved and in the pipeline to use up our budget for the entire year,” said Dr. Hepburn on the late summer decision to end funding. “We’ve had a much greater demand for our programs in Ontario.”

Demand for all programs began to grow across the country when Mitacs expanded eligibility in 2015, allowing Crown corporations and nonprofit organizations to offer internships, not just for-profit corporations. Then, in 2021, Mitacs Ontario announced a 50 percent reduction in the fees industry partners had to pay as it received additional funding, with the agreement lasting through Mitacs’ fiscal year-end the following April.

“The combination of the discount and knowing that this program was ending basically meant we were inundated with applications,” said Dr. hepburn

Mitacs derives its budget from a combination of federal and state funds. In April 2021, the Federal Ministry for Innovation, Science and Economic Development committed $708 million over five years, which is 75 percent of its budget. For the remaining 25 percent, Mitacs turns to the provinces, some of which have committed to stable funding over five years, while others renew annually.

Ontario gave Mitacs $5.5 million in fiscal 2018-19. In recognition of the pandemic’s disruption to the program, the province increased its investments to a total of $42 million over the next two years — this extra money allowed Mitacs to offer industry partners the short-term rebate budget released last spring, which returned Ontario’s Mitacs award returned to a more usual $7.5 million.

dr Hepburn said Mitacs hopes to secure a long-term financing commitment from Ontario that will keep pace with demand and allow for better planning. It also has multi-year commitments from Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, while its agreement with Manitoba is about to expire.

Despite recent financial challenges, Mitacs has no plans to change the way applications for internships are approved. “We have always had the attitude that we will support a valid project. We don’t like to say no,” said Dr. hepburn “Pausing is something we don’t like to do, and we’d rather not do it in the future either. But this year was an unusual year.”

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