The latest from the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training

UNB Students Take Hands-On Approach to Research and Policy in New Brunswick

Author: Bethany Jones

Posted on Oct 28, 2021

Category: Population Research , Economics , Education , Health , Training


The end of 2021 is in sight, and as countries around the world begin to emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns, there is a universal air of uncertainty about the future. In New Brunswick, however, this uncertainty predated the pandemic.

For the past few years, the province of New Brunswick has been struggling to address the problems of an aging population, the out-migration of its youth, a shrinking labour force, and the impact these issues have on an already overly burdened health care system. Without effective solutions to these problems, the future of the province remains precarious.

The New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training at the University of New Brunswick has taken the lead in using provincial population data to support evidence-informed policies that invest in the future progress, prosperity, and well-being of New Brunswickers. With a focus on education, health care, and labour market research, NB-IRDT not only provides evidence to government and community leaders but also invests in the future workforce of NB by involving post-secondary students in hands-on, NB-relevant research through its Pathways to Professions summer research program.

Pathways to Professions – or, P2P – is a 13-week paid experiential learning program developed by NB-IRDT with support from Future NB, Planet Hatch, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, and UNB’s and Saint Thomas University’s Offices of Experiential Education.

The goal? To provide NB students with hands-on research and professionalism training opportunities that help them achieve their full potential and become involved in research that matters to New Brunswickers, while having an impact on policy in the province and creating connections with NB employers and community leaders. At NB-IRDT, P2P capitalizes on the connection between its own student retention and population research, and the impact that meaningful NB-relevant research could have on retaining excellent post-secondary students in the province.

As an experiential learning program, P2P aligns with UNB’s Toward2030 strategic plan, which recognizes the need for experiential education that prepares post-secondary students to transition to the workforce while connecting them with meaningful work experience that helps them build soft skills like confidence, emotional intelligence, and situational awareness. “More than simply skills training, however, Pathways to Professions … encourages the spirit of inquiry that is so essential to research, and it demonstrates that we are capable of addressing our society’s greatest challenges when we approach them with curiosity, expertise, and understanding,” according to Dave Magee, UNB’s Vice-President Research.

Since its first season in 2020, P2P 2021 has seen significant growth – from receiving 14 to 114 student applications; from hiring 6 students to 20; and from offering 2 research streams to 5. In 2021, the 20 student participants from STU and UNB Fredericton and Saint John were assigned to one of five research projects led by researchers at UNB:

The ExperienceNB team assessed the state of experiential learning at UNB, specifically relating to community engagement and impact.

 The PopNB team focused on the aging of the NB population and its effects on various sectors of the economy and society: specifically, immigration, healthcare, and post-secondary education.

The BoostNB team measured NB’s progress toward several economic goals, spanning sectors and demographics.

The VitalSignsNB team conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis of increasing the number of publicly funded pharmacist-administered vaccines in NB.

The ConnectNB team created the framework for a networking strategy designed to connect post-secondary and graduate students with available research projects identified by NB government and community leaders.

Each student had an opportunity to directly impact the programs and policies they researched. Along with general stakeholder presentations involving all research streams, the ExperienceNB team provided their recommendations directly to UNB; the VitalSignsNB team presented their results to the NB Pharmacists’ Association and had their work featured by CBC; the ConnectNB team met with government employees to identify priority research areas of interest; the BoostNB team presented their results directly to the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce and BioNB; and the PopNB team presented their findings to UNB’s recruitment team.

Needless to say, the 2021 cohort of P2P students is enjoying a well-deserved break from this summer’s activities; but NB-IRDT is still hard at work distributing the students’ infographics, reports, magazines, briefing notes, and other research products showcasing their results.

For more information on the P2P program and this past year’s students and their accomplishments, or to receive the students’ research products as they are released throughout the year, please email us or sign up to receive NB-IRDT’s monthly newsletter.






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