The Future of Science and Technology Talents in The Region of Waterloo

Waterloo Region is a mid-sized community located in the heart of southwestern Ontario’s greenbelt. It has a large urban center while still maintaining the character of a smaller rural community. As well in Waterloo, the city where we live, there are two famous universities, University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, which keep providing the world with a bunch of talents in all fields. To be more specific, the University of Waterloo is famous for its great educational resources in programs including mathematics, computer science and engineering. UW is also famous for its unique and original co-op programs, which provide undergraduates with tons of chances to experience real life jobs and help them adapt to the high-tech community early. University students and graduates in Waterloo Region always have opportunities to start their own technology companies or join big groups and show their mettle. Students can always do what they love and show their unique skills and capabilities in their strong fields in KW Region.

As far as I’m personally concerned, I am an international student currently studying in Waterloo Collegiate Institute and have strong interests in the science and technology industry. Personally speaking, the reason why I chose to study here largely depends on the environment brought by these two great universities and all the high-tech industries located in the Region of Waterloo. Many students in WCI are willing to receive further education in the area of science and technology and it is currently the season to apply for universities. Many of my friends are interested in computer science and engineering. Haochen, whose dream programs are computer science and engineering, is a student currently studying in WCI. “Computer science is an irresistible trend,” said Haochen without hesitation, “there will be definitely more jobs concerning high-tech and computer techniques in the near future, and I believe the Region of Waterloo provides a good platform for high-tech talented people.” In the process of finishing forms from OUAC (Ontario Universities’ Application Centre), Haochen chose programs of Computer Science and Engineering at UW and U of T as his first choices without hesitation.

In order to know more about the choices for the future career for university students, I had a conversation with a WCI graduate, Jiahua Shang, who is currently studying in the department of mathematics, focusing on Financial Analysis and Risk Management at the University of Waterloo. Jiahua has an optimistic expectation in terms of the development prospect of this Region, “UW has good co-op programs in this area, and Waterloo contains a great number of talented students and specialists in the high-tech field. As we all know, the Nobel prize of 2018 was given to a professor in UW. It probably cannot stand for all the UW students, but it does show that UW has a great stage for their students to innovate, and to investigate.” When being asked about his future plan and his career choice, Jiahua appears to be quite confident. “In order to become a CFA, the first step is to get a certification,” he said, “I want to join those well-known companies because it’s easier for me compared to starting a new company.” “If possible, I do prefer high-tech industries and get engaged in relevant fields.” I also asked him about the choices of his friends after graduating, Jiahua said: “It depends. Some of them choose to stay and some decide to seek chances in other places like the US and China. Some decide to start their own business while others prefer working in big corporations.” “We may have different options and take several paths, but the consciousness of innovation given by UW will never change. I believe we can all succeed in the future.” According to his descriptions, students in the Waterloo Region especially UW do work really hard to graduate and get a good job, but most of them chose not to devote all the time to study, their success largely depends on the time management skills and a feasible future plan which they can stick to.

Kitchener-Waterloo Region is also known for the number of start-ups founded by university students and graduates. Velocity is a leading entrepreneurship program at the University of Waterloo and it oversees Canada’s most productive startup incubator. Basically, what Velocity provides students with is the knowledge, tools, spaces and network that startups and entrepreneurs need for success, it encourages them to generate ideas, to develop products and to commercialize them. As a successful platform set up for those who have strong interests in starting their own companies, Velocity is not a large-scale one. “We have a very small team,” said Tanis, the administrative assistant of Velocity. I went through their websites for a few times and got the required information. In terms of the composition of the companies in Velocity, there are both current students in UW as well as alumni. Software companies take up the highest percentage while hardware and science ones are also quite numerous. That is to say, many students and graduates who choose to start their own business become the leaders of startups and obtain great help from this sort of organization to achieve their goal. Despite success or not, the experiences they gain from that really help.

Communitech is another tech community that I contacted with. Its name comes from “A community of tech” and it is a 20 years strong, private-public partnership driven by the mission to help tech companies start, grow and succeed. Unlike Velocity, which only provides help for students and aluminis of University of Waterloo, talents who get help from Communitech have various backgrounds. “We have founders that studied Science and technology, engineers, people with art backgrounds and founders that dropped out of University.” said Ashley, the strategic growth team coordinator of Communitech. However, the way Communitech works is quite similar to Velocity. When asked about how Communitech helps ideologically and financially, Ashley told me that, “Communitech provides support in many different ways to startups. We provide support to those who only have an idea, to those that are generating revenue, and everyone else in between. Communitech doesn’t actually provide startups with financial support, we guide and mentor to ensure that the founders know how to fundraise through grants and investors. I think this is a common misconception that we help finance a starting company.” Entrepreneurs in different fields including medical, hardware, software etc. gather together to make their dreams come true from generating an idea to going into actions, and finally to reaching the top. The place to make it is not as far as Silicon Valley, in the Region of Waterloo, there are so many chances and great resources.

In summary, the KW region is an actually amazing place for all talents to achieve their goals. Maybe you are just a high school student interested in science and technology and you think it is still so early for you to think about the future. But what you have to believe is that the Region of Waterloo might be the best place for you to make your tiny childhood dream come true. As long as you are talented, you have some genius ideas or you have superb skills in a certain field concerning science and technology, you will definitely find your place. No matter if you attended the top universities or set about to practice immediately after high school, no matter if you join big corporations or start your own company, chances are always there for you to explore and seize.

I sincerely appreciate the help from two of my friends, Jiahua Shang and Haochen Liu. I also faithfully appreciate the help from Ashley Campbell, the
Strategic Growth Team Coordinator from Communitech and Tanis Roach, the Administrative Assistant of Velocity.