Experiential Learning Creates an Ocean of Possibility

March 31, 2017

Carmen Lawrence grew up in a small community that not only relied on the ocean for income, but provided her with a view of the ocean right from her doorstep. Her first ocean-related job of guiding boatloads of people on tours while teaching them about whale biology and ecology lead Carmen to follow a career in ocean technology. She decided to pursue a Diploma in Ocean Technology from Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC).

              Carmen Lawrence - web
                            Photo Credit: Megan Hirons Mahon, Communications Nova Scotia

NSCC is a sponsor of the Game Changers Youth Retention Action Plan, a three-year private-sector driven initiative to retain young talent like Carmen in Halifax and Nova Scotia. Through Game Changers, the Partnership encourages and supports business to hire youth, provide experiential learning opportunities and connect young people with professionals in their industry to build their network. 

To earn her diploma, Carmen was required to participate in experiential learning. At the end of her schooling in May 2016, Carmen began an internship with JASCO Applied Sciences, a Dartmouth-based organization that provides consulting and research services for assessing and mitigating underwater noise. “When I started my internship, I was doing a lot of different things – going from one project to another to get as much out of the experience in as many different aspects of the company as possible,” says Carmen. 

“My internship gave me the opportunity to experiment and to try out various aspects of JASCO,” says Carmen. “Most importantly, it helped me make connections. I got to know the people in the company. That is one of the most challenging things for young people starting out post-graduation in my opinion. Companies want to hire people they know and trust. Experiential learning opportunities help you become one of those people while you’re still in school.”

As of October, Carmen was hired as a full-time JASCO employee, currently holding the title of Project Scientist & Equipment Technician. “My connections from other jobs helped me secure my internship at JASCO in the first place. The NSCC program and the opportunity to complete an internship gave me a foot in the door and I’m very grateful for that.” 

The NSCC ocean technology program is an advanced diploma, which requires a previous diploma or degree to apply. “My class had about 15 people in it. About half of them came from NSCC’s electronics and mechanical technician programs, the rest has other science backgrounds such as marine biology, psychology and more. It was a great mix with a diverse set of experiences, however we all had one thing in common. We wanted to work in and with the ocean,” says Carmen.

“With the large availability of programs such as oceanography, marine biology and more, there are more and more ways to access this career. You don’t necessarily have to start in engineering or business and end up here. You can plan and choose to go into a career in ocean technology.”

As for the future, Carmen knows for certain that she wants to have a positive impact on Nova Scotia’s ocean industry. “This industry is such a perfect fit for our economy and our culture. I want to be a part of the growth and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes and what we make of it. We have an opportunity to put ourselves on the map and develop the industry.” See below to learn more about Carmen and her love for the ocean. 



Watch Carmen Lawrence's feature story on Canada's Ocean City: 


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