Workforce Equity

Shopify launches Student Commerce Builders to build ecommerce career pathways

Since its founding in 2006, Shopify has grown to be a world leader in ecommerce. In over 170 countries, millions of merchants have chosen Shopify to build their businesses, they’ve built an ecosystem where entrepreneurs thrive and anyone can start a business. Crucial to their mission of ‘making commerce better for everyone’ is getting businesses a storefront. Straightforward if you grew up surrounded by technology, but what if this is your first foray into ecommerce?
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Since its founding in 2006, Shopify has grown to be a world leader in ecommerce. In over 170 countries millions of merchants have chosen Shopify to build their businesses; they’ve built an ecosystem where entrepreneurs thrive and anyone can start a business. Crucial to their mission of ‘making commerce better for everyone’ is getting businesses a storefront. Straightforward if you grew up surrounded by technology, but what if this is your first foray into ecommerce?

At the same time, recent graduates are entering the workforce and becoming the next generation of entrepreneurs, but with no formal training in the tools needed to participate in what is now a US$1 trillion industry (Statista Market Insights, 2023).

Businesses need help moving their operations online, while the generation with tech in their DNA needs the training to turn a hobby into a career. Enter, Shopify Student Commerce Builders.

“We were so excited to launch this pilot to engage students in the work we do here at Shopify and to make getting online much more accessible for our merchants,”

- Grace Cowden, Program Manager (Global Partnerships), Shopify 


The situation

Brick-and-mortar merchants want to move online but don’t know how; There isn’t an early talent network trained in Shopify

With a laser focus on growth, Shopify needed to build new channels for onboarding merchants while decreasing the time-to-value. Marketing and sales teams were quickly bringing in new users, but without a live storefront, the merchant could not reach the audiences needed to make an ecommerce investment viable.

Simultaneously, Shopify had seen success working with students and implementing innovative work-integrated learning modules through its Dev Degree computer science program. This hands-on traditional degree alternative trained learners for in-demand developer skill sets like Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, and React, with dedicated work placements at Shopify to build competency in real-world environments.

With a long-term lens on solving the core business need of scaleable, faster onboarding of merchants, confidence in work-integrated learning, and a desire to grow future talent pools, Shopify’s Global Partnerships team approached Riipen to help design, build, and recruit for a new experimental program: Student Commerce Builder.

The solution

An extracurricular boot camp to rapidly train students in building online stores on Shopify

Riipen has expertise in delivering 200,000+ learner experiences while developing and implementing innovative work-integrated learning programs at scale (eg. Level UP); allowing Shopify to find its ideal partner to quickly iterate and scale alongside them.

Student Commerce Builder was a three-month boot camp for Canadian students to develop competency in Shopify store creation, then work hand-in-hand with new merchants to rapidly design, build, and publish their storefronts to the world.

Designing the program to fit around students’ existing academic schedules was key. Participants worked fully remote, 8-12 hours per week during both the training and client-facing modules. Ensuring program access to learners with barriers that would prevent them otherwise was top-of-mind from the beginning, with students paid C$16/hour and provided any equipment needed for the duration of the experience. Student Commerce Builder’s participants learned the Shopify platform from leading experts in the e-commerce industry, had the opportunity to demonstrate their expertise with real clients, and were paid for their learning along the way.

“The program has been exciting and fast-paced. The work challenges me to think outside the box and get creative when working with merchants. Best of all, I get to work with an extremely supportive team where I can learn more about Shopify and develop my skills in a positive environment.”

- Alex Cao-Huu, Liberal Arts & Professional Studies student, York University

Partnership outcomes

To say students were excited was an understatement. Within just a few days of announcing Student Commerce Builders to Riipen’s student community, over 1,000 learners registered interest.  Originally aiming to engage 10-15 businesses per month to help accelerate their onboarding to the platform, the program’s popularity resulted in over 160 new Shopify stores built by participating students. To keep up with demand, 15 individuals from the program were hired for 3-month contracts to continue their work over the summer. To date, over 97% of student participants thought the experience was a “great job opportunity”.

Many of the merchants who participated in the program were brick-and-mortar businesses just starting their e-commerce journey, looking to get online and reach digital consumers. With the help of students trained in setting up Shopify storefronts, merchants were able to hit the ground running and focus on running their new e-commerce store.

“I have been wanting to do this for a while, but didn't have the time to make it happen. It's essentially been a blessing to be part of this program and have a true talent, [my SCB partner], helped me create a store that will continue to push my business towards success.”

- Dallon, participating merchant, Zypher Trading 

“I am so thankful for this opportunity,” shares another merchant participant, “What was accomplished with this program in a couple of weeks would have taken me months of watching videos, online chats, and phone calls to get the site built. I still have a lot to learn but at least I can focus my time on how to market and use the website and not have to take the time to learn the basics of setting it up.”

“Joining the Student Commerce Builder program here at Shopify has been one of the most amazing experiences I have had so far in my career, and it has just begun! I was really nervous to begin due to not having as much experience in e-commerce. However, all the leads have been extremely helpful and created an environment where asking questions was not only acceptable but encouraged. The training was intensive, but really well thought-out. Being able to apply what we had learned has been one of the most rewarding parts!”

- Jasmine Ho, Digital Media student, University of Toronto

References

Statista Market Insights (2023) Comparable estimates - ecommerce (United States) [Table]. Statista. https://www.statista.com/outlook/dmo/ecommerce/united-states#revenue

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