GAME CHANGERS: AGADA Wins 2017 Best Youth Employer Award

January 5, 2018

AGADA Biosciences


AGADA Logo webThe Game Changers Awards Gala recognizes exceptional Halifax businesses and Connectors who hire youth, provide meaningful experiential learning opportunities and inspire others to take action in retaining youth. This year’s gala took place on October 30. Nine awards were presented, and AGADA Biosciences was the recipient of the Best Youth Employer Award, Small Business category. 

AGADA is a privately-owned company that aims to meet the rapidly growing need for services to accelerate drug development for rare diseases. Its founders have made a conscious effort to invest in Nova Scotia’s youth – 80% of AGADA’s employees are aged 19-29, and 85% of recent hires are young professionals.

Amanda Mullen, Director of Operations at AGADA, shares how hiring youth has benefitted the company.


 Amanda, Raju, Eric, Kit Atrium - web


What has been the greatest benefit of hiring young professionals for your business?

In our experience, young professionals are extremely appreciative of opportunities within Nova Scotia because many of them have strong ties to the province. Their gratitude seems to trigger a motivation to work hard and become long-term valued staff members. The young professionals we've hired over the past three years have been eager to work, enthusiastic, highly flexible, and each come with unique interests and expertise that empower them to make continuous improvements within different areas of our company.

We made use of the Strategic Cooperative Education Program (SCEI) and the NSERC program immediately upon starting operations in 2014. The students we hired through these programs helped us develop many of the services we offer today. This synergistic relationship of creating quality internships for students and having them make significant contributions to our operations was very encouraging. We have continued to hire students whenever possible and always find it greatly enriches our work environment. 


Our goal is to reach net zero loss of youth aged 20-29 (retaining all youth), what would that mean for Halifax? What does that mean for you?  

Retaining youth within Nova Scotia, especially in the life sciences sector, would help us achieve our long-term goals of making Halifax an internationally recognized city for drug development at the pre-clinical and clinical stages. To do this, we need to ensure there are jobs for the bright young science graduates from Nova Scotia universities and that they are encouraged to continue entering these programs. AGADA has the potential to expand rapidly in terms of the research services we offer and the disease models we work with, and we look forward to being able to offer employment to many more students and graduates.

We were lucky enough to discover charming Nova Scotia, but other companies may need help seeing the value and opportunity Nova Scotia has to offer. We believe the Halifax Partnership's efforts in leveraging the highly educated youth in Nova Scotia to attract new businesses will significantly impact Halifax’s private-sector growth.


What advice do you have for businesses who are considering hiring youth?

Recognize the value of having youth grow with your company. Young professionals have the flexibility and willingness to learn and work in a way that is complementary to your company's practices. At AGADA, our employees are continuously learning and their first year of employment is extremely training intensive. Hiring youth does not have to be a high-risk endeavor. After making the investment in training youth, we encourage long-term commitment from our employees. We like to ensure our staff can visualize their career ladder within our company, and we help steer their careers in a direction that will fulfill their ambitions. 

Secondly, we encourage other companies to provide their young professionals with the job security, benefits and rewards they deserve. Short-term employment contracts can be discouraging to youth, and can keep employees with one foot out the door. When considering compensation and benefits, offer something above the minimum required for job offer acceptance. Consider the cost of living in Halifax, the proportion of your employees with student debt, the location of your business, and transportation costs. Evaluate staff regularly to offer performance-based raises and promotions. The benefits of this encouragement will by far outweigh the costs!




CLICK HERE to learn more about the Game Changers Youth Retention Action Plan.