East Kootenay biology intern set on career course

Jeremy Benson spent most of his summer on the Koocanusa Reservoir

Submitted by Columbia Basin Trust

Jeremy Benson spent most of his summer on the Koocanusa Reservoir, but he wasn’t camping or pursuing other recreational activities popular in the area. The Junior Biologist collected important water quality and biological samples that will help industry with environmental monitoring projects.

Benson is an intern at Cranbrook’s VAST Resource Solutions Inc., which provides natural resource consulting and engineering services throughout BC and Western Canada. When VAST’s senior fish and aquatic biologist retired, the team had a hard time finding an experienced replacement, primarily due to the competitive market for qualified staff.

“After a year of advertising, we decided to start looking at hiring and training a junior person instead, but one of the issues was the cost,” says Ben Meunier, Fisheries Biologist. “In addition to training expenses, a junior person is typically not immediately billable to our clients because of the steep learning curve required to become familiar with all the sampling techniques, industry standards and environmental regulations we work with on a daily basis.”

Then VAST came across the Trust’s Career Internship Program. This program gives employers wage subsidies to hire recent post-secondary graduates like Benson for full-time, career-focused positions that lead to permanent employment. The program helps employers expand their teams and capacity at a reduced cost; it also supports graduates in finding employment in their chosen fields.

“When a junior person comes in who doesn’t necessarily have experience working in the industry, it takes some time to get them up to speed,” says Meunier. “Having additional funding available so Jeremy could slow down and take the time to learn really helped.”

The internship has given VAST the ability to train a less experienced individual; assess his skills, abilities and aptitude; and determine how he best fits into the firm.

It has also enabled Benson to work in a dynamic setting under the guidance of an experienced mentor, benefit from hands-on field work, and gain transferable industry skills and knowledge. After spending the summer on the Koocanusa Reservoir, he has now moved indoors to do analysis in the Cranbrook office, where he’s developing new skills such as project management.

“Being able to work for a local company is great. I’m from Cranbrook, so when it comes to field work, I’m familiar with a lot of the areas and systems we’ve been studying and working in,” says Benson. “Transitioning from school to work has also been good; I’ve been working my way through various responsibilities as I get more comfortable.”

The time and resources VAST has poured into his development has Benson’s career swiftly flowing on course for long-term employment.

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