Keen on worker safety

Global Academics Internship at UBC builds confidence

If you accidentally pour acid on your shoes in the lab or get banged up at a UBC construction site, chances are Gabriela de la Paz is going to know about it. Her current internship at UBC’s Risk Management Services has given her a glimpse into what she hopes will be her future.

“I want to be a safety consultant, an expert who protects the workforce,” says de la Paz, one of 26 current students enrolled in the Global Academics Internship program (GAIP) offered by UBC Continuing Studies.

One of many Global Academics programs offered by UBC Continuing Studies, the GAIP program is designed to help international students get their bearings in Canada and to take part in academic life before entering graduate school or the workforce. The students develop cultural fluency, valuable communication skills and practical work experience.

The GAIP program attracts students from disciplines as diverse as theatre, life sciences and media studies. Partner organizations are equally varied and include Metro Vancouver, Telus World of Science, local seniors’ centres and UBC.

“I receive reports about accidents that happen at UBC. I read them, categorize them and sometimes I do a little investigating into why they happened,” says de la Paz. The ultimate goal is to develop a centralized database for better accident investigation, ultimately improving the safety of workers and students of UBC.

De la Paz hails from Monterrey, Mexico where she graduated last December with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the Monterrey Institute of Technology university system (Tec de Monterrey). She explains that she caught the engineering bug from her father, also an industrial engineer.

“I like industrial engineering because it gives you a little bit of every area of engineering,” de la Paz says. All her degree was missing, she adds, was “a little business know-how.”

To remedy that, de la Paz came to UBC as an exchange student, earning a certificate in supply chain management and logistics at the Sauder School of Business. This fall, de la Paz starts a UBC master’s program in occupational safety and environmental hygiene. The GAIP program has increased her confidence for this new chapter, notes de la Paz. “I wanted to do something so that I could gain practical experience in occupational safety and so that I could improve my English.”

The internships are four to  eight weeks long, and de la Paz is nearing the end of hers. “It has been an amazing experience. Everyone has been so nice and I think they have really prepared me for the workplace.” She says that her co-workers’ support and strong sense of teamwork helped her excel at her internship. The team left no man or woman behind. “Key stakeholders were always involved in my progress and we regularly met for me to get feedback and suggestions,” she adds.

After being in an English-speaking environment for a while, de la Paz has gotten accustomed to different styles of writing for the workplace. “I learned technical vocabulary in safety and health which will be useful for the rest of my career,” she says.

The first half of de la Paz’s internship consisted of coursework, with most of her classmates being Korean. “It was a challenge to adapt in such a short period of time, being the only Mexican in the group,” says de la Paz. But as it turns out, being immersed in UBC’s diversity has been a highlight for her.  She says she has gained new friends, being in an environment so different from her home university.

“[UBC’s diversity] can give me a better picture of how business is done, which are the best practices, not only in my country or Canada but also in other countries.”

The 23-year-old is even more enthusiastic about her future in accident prevention because she took full advantage of her experiences with the GAIP program.

“I would absolutely recommend it. It can give you a broader perspective of how to apply what you learn at school. Especially for jumping into a master’s, it can give you a great set of tools and if you can make business work in Vancouver, you can do it anywhere.”

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UBC Reports | Vol. 58 | No. 7 | Jul. 4, 2012

Gabriela de la Paz worked with UBC's Risk management Services through the Global Academics Internship Program on worker safety matters. Samuel Stime Photograph

Gabriela de la Paz worked with UBC's Risk management Services through the Global Academics Internship Program on worker safety matters. Samuel Stime Photograph

UBC student Gabriela de la Paz

UBC student Gabriela de la Paz

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