Dec. 6, 2023

Schulich internship program pays dividends for up-and-coming engineers

UCalgary students appreciate memorable experiences with hands-on learning
Kayla Vickers
Schulich School of Engineering student Kayla Vickers is in the midst of her internship with Shell at its Scotford location. Courtesy Kayla Vickers

Engineering is a family affair for Kayla Vickers.

Inspired by her engineer parents, she says the positive changes they made through their work showed her the opportunity to make a real difference in the world.

Vickers has taken her passion for problem-solving and innovation to the Schulich School of Engineering, where she is a third-year chemical engineering major with a minor in biomedical engineering.

Her drive and determination have been taken to a new level while on her internship at Shell at its Scotford Complex in Fort Saskatchewan, northeast of Edmonton.

“This experience allowed me to witness the practical application of both theoretical knowledge and field experience in addressing issues,” Vickers says. “Schulich has provided a solid foundation with knowledge and calculations, but the internship allowed me to translate that knowledge into real-world scenarios.”

Experience from all angles

Each year, hundreds of Schulich students from all disciplines get hands-on experience through 12-to-16-month paid internships that can be completed locally or globally.

Vickers has seen almost every aspect of the Shell Scotford operations since she started in May 2023, performing regular safety and compliance checks and sometimes entering confined spaces with various pieces of equipment looking for wear, corrosion and damage.

“A particularly memorable experience was inspecting two hexane columns in one day,” she says. “This involved climbing two of the tallest towers in the refinery and examining a combined total of 120 trays, spending over five hours in both columns.”

Kayla Vickers 2

Schulich student Kayla Vickers is learning a lot while enjoying her internship with Shell.

Courtesy Kayla Vickers

When she’s not in the field, Vickers is monitoring and reporting on energy consumption, savings and carbon dioxide emissions across the entire site.

“This effort aligns with Shell’s ambition to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, ensuring we stay on track with our environmental goals,” she says.

Vickers also helped create the company’s first Clean Fuels Regulation draft, highlighting Shell’s efforts in emission reductions from two heaters in the steam methane reformers.

More than a job

Vickers is taking part in the Shell Assessed Internship Program, where she gets to immerse herself into the industry as part of a project team.

The program is aimed at giving students full day-to-day involvement in different initiatives, with the hope of helping them determine the right career path for them. Each intern is also provided with regular assessments and reviews during their time on site.

Vickers says she has also enjoyed the sense of community she has seen at Scotford.

“It has a positive and inclusive atmosphere characterized by strong teamwork and a genuine willingness among everyone to help and support each other."

“The community extends beyond the workplace with various activities like chili cook-offs, watermelon-eating contests, hot wing challenges and even yoga with our general manager," she says.

Her supervisor at Shell, Alan Luck, says he is impressed with Vickers’ curiosity, preparation and willingness to volunteer.

“The longer internship has allowed Kayla to show leadership amongst her more junior peers as she becomes more experienced and familiar with the work environment and the work that is required to be completed,” he says. “She continues to reach outside of her comfort zone in different areas, allowing her to develop a strong foundation for future career development.”

Luck says Shell appreciates hands-on, well-rounded internship programs as they help develop future employees and leaders of the company.

A sustainable future

Vickers says her internship has been incredibly valuable as she has been able to expand her skill set, work on new projects and build connections with her teams.

Regardless of which company future students want to intern for, she says the key is to seek out new opportunities.

“Don’t hesitate to ask lots of questions and put yourself out there,” Vickers says. “People are really willing to help.”

As for her future, she says she will return to Schulich in September 2024 with a better understanding of what it will take to be successful in her career.

“My dream upon graduation is to contribute to the development of sustainable technologies, particularly in carbon capture,” Vickers says. “I hope to create a more sustainable future in an industry critical to meeting global energy needs.”

Learn more about the Schulich Internship Program and the Hire Schulich program.

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