Sask Polytech alumni discover promising careers with rural Saskatchewan agricultural manufacturer Bourgault Industries, Ltd.

March 2024

When instructors for Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Innovative Manufacturing program read an article in a national magazine back in 2021 about international students facing challenges in Canada, it gave them pause for thought. The program had recently opened its first intake for international students and uptake from non-domestic applicants for the two-year diploma had been strong.

“Meeting the needs of our international students is important to Sask Polytech,” says Brenda Suru, dean for the Nutrien School of Mining, Manufacturing and Engineering Technologies, “but first and foremost, we work to develop our programs in collaboration and consultation with industry. That way, we ensure we are training the right number of students—whether domestic or international—to meet industry needs.

“Our decision to open the program to international students was well considered,” agrees academic chair Grant Paul, who notes that there are excellent job prospects for graduates both in the province and beyond. Since it was the first time international students had been admitted to the program, faculty reached out to the most recent group of graduates and the response was entirely positive. Says Paul, “We asked, ‘Was their transition successful? Were they finding jobs in their field?’ It was validating to hear that these students are out in the workforce and thriving, many of them right here in Saskatchewan.”

International graduates from the program have gone on to a variety of opportunities—some straight to industry, a few choosing to progress to further their education in engineering here in Canada or at home. A surprising number have started their careers in the small town or area surrounding St. Brieux, Saskatchewan, where agricultural equipment manufacturer Bourgault Industries houses its main facility.

Bourgault hired its first Innovative Manufacturing graduate, a local from Humboldt, in 2020. The company was so impressed with his skills and job readiness that they contacted the program to say they would welcome more applicants. Instructors passed along the message to the 2021 class and that spring, Bourgault hired nine graduating students—all of them international. The following year saw another three international graduates go to Bourgault. “I think they would have taken more,” says Paul, “but most students had jobs already lined up.”

One of these hires from the first group, Kishan Patel, relocated from Regina to Melfort, where he lived for his first year working with Bourgault. “I then moved to St. Brieux,” says Patel, who worked for a second year with Bourgault, gaining experience that would eventually see him hired as a drafting technologist at an environmental services company based in Regina. “Innovative Manufacturing taught me about both design and manufacturing. It’s practical as well as theory based, so I had a lot of hands-on experience that I was then able to build on in my position at Bourgault.”

Kelsey Doepker, who works in Bourgault’s human resources department, has been nurturing the relationship that is a clearly a win-win for the business and the graduates they hire. “The program invited us to come and present to the 2022 class,” she explains. “St. Brieux is 280 km from Regina, which can make recruitment a challenge. We’re willing to go the extra mile to support our international hires to gain their permanent residency and that’s meaningful enough that they are willing to move outside the bigger urban centres like Regina or Saskatoon.”

Innovative Manufacturing offers skills-based training in all aspects of the manufacturing industry. “We’ve discovered that what students learn in the program is directly related to our manufacturing processes at Bourgault, explains Doepker, “so graduates of the program are a good fit.”

Bourgault manufactures its machinery from start to finish, producing all parts that go into their air hoe drills, seeders, fertilizer applicators and other specialized agricultural equipment. “Most of our new hires start in fabrication where parts are created,” says Doepker. “Innovative manufacturing grads come equipped to operate our laser cutters, bending machines, lathes, punches and other tools. A few of our new hires started as machinists. There’s a design element to innovative manufacturing as well and some have progressed to this type of position.”

Room for growth helps keep employees and Doepker says it’s partly the reason they’ve managed to retain 80 per cent of the Sask Polytech grads they’ve hired. “There are opportunities here for people to progress and that’s important.”

Kashyap Goswami, another graduate from the 2021 class hired by Bourgault says his supervisor was initially surprised at the skill level he and his classmates arrived with. “He told me there was a huge difference between us and other new employees,” says the graduate, who along with classmate Patel, hails from Gujarat in western India. “I think there isn’t always the understanding from industry that a technologist coming from our program has more than just the ability to do basic operational work. We are well versed in all aspects of the manufacturing process, even drawing and design.”

Goswami worked for two years at Bourgault, progressing to computer numerical control machinist before deciding to pursue a degree in computer science. “Through my work at Bourgault I realized that programming and robotics is where my interests lie so I’ve decided to study for a bachelor’s degree. Having more programming skills along with my manufacturing knowledge will make me very well rounded—especially where the world is headed with AI. Innovative manufacturing was a great start for me. And the team at Bourgault, especially in human resources, was very helpful to me as a newcomer.”

Goswami remembers being unsure what the reception would be for him and his classmates when they first relocated to the St. Brieux area but says he was happy to find that people were welcoming and very friendly. “It was a challenge at first to find food from our culture but over time that changed a little,” he says. “Melfort has more international residents than it once did and we started to see a few items at the grocery store from other cultures.”

Ayush Rana, another Gujarati classmate from the 2021 graduating class hired by Bourgault, tries to stock up on Indian grocery staples when he visits Regina or Saskatoon to bring back to St. Brieux, where he lives with roommates. “I recently visited my family back in India,” he says, “and it was so nice to see my family after four and a half years. Working at Bourgault, though, is like working in a family. They treat us well and offer amazing benefits, such as profit sharing and health spending.”

He received a job offer from Bourgault three days after graduating from the program and has worked his way up through the company from front-end machine operator through assembly to the office, where he is now working as a quality assurance technician.  “I had an offer from another company in Regina, but the Bourgault HR rep said right in my interview that they would sponsor me and help with the paperwork required for me to stay in Canada. They were very accommodating and that made a difference in my decision.”

“I came to Canada after grade 12 and Sask Polytech was my first higher education experience,” says Rana. “It was amazing. I wasn’t sure what I’d be studying but as the program advanced it just got better and better and I learned so much over the two years. I would recommend the program to anyone looking for hands-on experience in manufacturing. And I have recommended Bourgault as an employer to quite a few others because it is a great place to work!”

For more information about the Innovative Manufacturing program, visit our website: Innovative Manufacturing (