In 2009, the Health Shared Services of BC (HSSBC) faced a major challenge: consolidating the shared supply-chain services of B.C.’s six regional health authorities. To help facilitate this daunting change, HSSBC enlisted the help of a student consulting team from the BCIT School of Business + Media.
Each year, the School of Business + Media’s innovative Business Consulting Projects (BCPs) match teams of two or three students with local businesses. These teams provide recommendations and solutions to a challenge related to marketing, human resources, business operations, information technology, and sustainable business. Throughout the project, the student team works closely with the business to research, collect data, and provide a comprehensive analysis of the problem and solutions.
“The Business Consulting Projects connect students with industry to advance business operations,” explains Kenton Low, Dean, School of Business + Media. “Our applied education approach ensures our career-motivated students will successfully enter the workforce and make an immediate impact.”
Of the 2009 project, Melinda Mui, then HSSBC’s senior corporate branch director, Lower Mainland, recalls: “The BC Health Authority Shared Services Organization, later HSSBC, began providing province-wide, consolidated shared services to create enhanced value to the health system through the effective, efficient delivery of services. These were profound changes that the system is still working through today. But having a BCP team conduct an inventory analysis project in the early days of HSSBC did help us!”
Guided by HSSBC staff and utilizing data from studying the different processes, the students developed their recommendations. These included deleting unused items, adjusting inventory levels for fast- and slow-moving items, and relocating warehouse inventory items where appropriate to one central distribution centre. HSSBC followed through on the team’s ideas, Mui says.
“As well, their recommendations assisted us as we streamlined our inventory process.”
Nothing prepares students to be industry-ready like putting them into a real-life work scenario, adds Mui, who has engaged BCP teams many times. “They experience first-hand how complicated a business operation can be. There’s no learning like actually doing.”
More than an internship
Traditional business schools often dispatch students to intern at companies for a taste of work life by performing specific responsibilities associated with a position. BCIT also offers internships, but Low sees BCPs as a more unique and enriching experience.
“BCP students face real business challenges. They come in as consultants to help solve a pressing issue that’s important to the company,” she explains. “This puts important skills into their personal toolboxes. As grads, they won’t go into a job feeling like a deer in headlights. Their attitude will be, ‘Bring it on!’”
Far from being rote, BCP challenges can be a matter of business survival. “In 2021, the BC Lions approached us with a key problem: how to improve game attendance among 18- to 25-year-olds. Older people were attending, sure, but the Lions needed to build the next generation of fans.”
Respecting client confidentiality, Low can’t reveal the student team’s recommendations for the Lions. Suffice it to say: survival mission accomplished. Other recent BCP clients have included Mountain Equipment Co-op, Evo Car Share, and the social media platform Hootsuite—each with its own urgent, timely challenge.
BCPs embody the school’s “simple, crisp purpose,” Low says, “to enrich lives through applied business and media education. We place learners at the centre of everything we do, and BCPs are a vital component. Giving students transformative, real-life industry experience sets them up for future success.”
The projects are also a win for the sponsoring companies, asserts Mui. “The benefit to the sponsor is a professional product with high quality and value, frequently exceeding expectations. Compared to the school’s very reasonable BCP fee, it would cost a fortune to hire an established consultant.”
In her roles as HSSBC Director, later Vice President, Supply Chain, and now in semi-retirement as a Supply Chain Consultant, Mui sees another benefit of BCPs.
“They’re a way for industry to help create future talent. The great challenge now is human resources. Companies need to be able to hire staff—the right staff. Through BCPs, they can evaluate students’ abilities and be exposed to their strong talent and potential.”
After all, as Low would point out, these students come job-ready.
For more information, visit bcit.ca/bcp.