UVic reaches milestone of 75,000 co-op placements

When Anabelle Budd was considering where to do her master's degree, the prospect of gaining work-related experience along with academic studies drew her to the University of Victoria from her home in France.

Dynamic, hands-on learning opportunities are a pillar of the UVic student experience. Forty years after launching one of Canada’s largest co-operative education programs, Budd’s work term puts UVic at the milestone of 75,000 co-op placements. The BC Ministry of Health hired the student last month as a research and policy analyst for a four-month term.

“I chose the UVic Masters of Public Administration program over other offers largely because of its integrated co-op program,” says Budd, an international student from France. “The opportunity to gain work experience in my field while studying is invaluable.”

“Anabelle is one of more than 30,000 hard-working students, including international and Indigenous students, who have pursued a co-op degree at UVic,” says Dr. Norah McRae, executive director of UVic’s Co-operative Education Program and Career Services. “Work-integrated learning is truly a form of community engagement. Since 1976, co-op students have helped link campus and community, contributing to organizations that are making a positive impact on the world. More than 3,250 placements were completed last year alone.”

Co-op plays a major role at UVic, with one in three students taking part. Students apply their academic knowledge in work term placements related to their areas of study, while employers benefit from students’ knowledge, skills and ideas.

In 2015, 1,130 different employer organizations in BC, across Canada and around the world hired UVic co-op students. Students have the academic knowledge and essential workplace skills that employers are looking for; of the more than 1,000 co-op employers surveyed in 2015, 90 per cent rated co-op students’ preparedness for the workplace as impressive.

The UVic Co-op Program is unique for its use of a learning outcome assessment to measure student experiences during the work term. All co-op students assess their workplace experiences based on competencies that align with UVic’s 10 learning outcomes at the beginning, middle and end of these experiences. Students are also encouraged to develop intercultural competencies to help them contribute to culturally diverse workplaces.

UVic’s Co-op Program was established in 1976 in the departments of chemistry and physics. The program secured 58 placements in its first year. Today, the program includes 13 co-op offices that provide opportunities for students in nearly every academic program at UVic. The program is indebted to the late Dr. Graham Branton, whose 17 years as director of UVic Co-op were essential to cultivating its success.

Fast facts

  • 1 in 3 UVic students complete co-operative education work terms as part of their degrees (an estimated 30,000 students in total since 1976).
  • Students have worked in 119 countries since 1976 (40 countries last year including Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Sweden and Uganda). International placements have made up 8.2 per cent of total placements over the past 20 years.
  • Students have earned close to $770 million in combined salary (based on the average salary averaged over the past 15 years).
  • In the past 20 years, 44.9 per cent of placements have been in the public sector and 55.1 per cent in the private sector (including 5.5 per cent with non-profit organizations).