With costs for post-secondary education continuing to rise and job markets becoming increasingly competitive, landing a job can be difficult for students.
GenM, a new Ottawa-based company, seeks to provide a solution by offering free online marketing training to students and millennials and help find them marketing placements with small businesses, according to their website. But some have been critical of the new company.
Carleton University journalism student Hilary Laffrenier, an intern for GenM, said the company was launched last year. GenM recently partnered with Shopify to offer additional training for students, according to Laffrenier.
Moe Abbas, founder of GenM, said the company’s online platform helps spread the idea of free education throughout the world.
“Our mission is to accelerate the advent of free education. We want to train one million students in the next five years for free,” Abbas said.
The online training involves a series of PowerPoint-style presentations and interactive gamesthat students works through, guiding them through steps such as how to build a brand and how to identify niche markets.
Students in the program create a brand, which they market through the creation of presentations that goes towards their portfolio work that can be shown to prospective employers. Throughout the program people are assigned points based on their work, which total up as they complete the tasks.
“Right now we offer free marketing training, with zero cost to students. We match the top graduates from the program, which is usually between three to five per cent, with small businesses,” Abbas said.
This means that most students will not receive an employment experience prior to the completion of the program, which is described as a “guaranteed job opportunity” on the GenM website.
In an article published in the Ottawa Business Journal in October 2016, a month after the company’s launch, Andrew Languille, general counsel for the Canadian Intern Association, said the work opportunities may violate labour laws for unpaid internships.
In response to these concerns, Abbas said he has been in contact with the Ministry of Labour to ensure that all the placements comply with the Employment Standards Act.
In an email, Valerie Molino, a third-year journalism student at Carleton and an intern at GenM, said the company is currently partnered with around 15 small businesses.
“When [students] start working with these companies they are now employed by them, so they’ve technically stepped into the workforce,” Molino said.
The way GenM makes their money is similar to how Uber functions, taking a cut of the earnings students make through using the platform while working with the businesses they get assigned, she said.
“The top three to five per cent of people from the test stage will be placed with a small business to do their marketing, and they will get paid. And yes, we continue to take a 30 per cent cut until they decide to stop doing our program,” Molino said. “On average, we hope to keep both small businesses and marketers working with GenM for [one to two] years, more than that is even better.”
The portfolio built up with the program and the work experience you can get, Abbas said, are essential to being a worthy candidate in today’s job market.
“At the end of the day employers are looking for qualified people, and by no means does having a degree mean you are qualified,” Abbas said. “This program is supposed to be supplementary to a degree, but maybe 5-10 years down the road, it could be an alternative to post secondary education.