75,000 co-op placements . . . and counting

Human and Social Development, Co-op

- Joy Poliquin

Forty years after launching one of Canada’s largest co-operative education programs, the University of Victoria is celebrating its 75,000th co-op placement.

Master of Public Administration student Anabelle Budd became the 75,000th co-op student to secure a co-op work term when she was hired last month by the BC Ministry of Health. She is working as a research and policy analyst for a four-month work term.

“I chose the UVic Masters of Public Administration over other offers largely due to 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.” This is Budd’s first work term.

“Anabelle is one of more than 30,000 hard-working 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 placements related to their areas of study, while employers benefit from students’ knowledge, skills and ideas.

In 2015, 1,130 different employer organizations hired UVic co-op students here in BC, across Canada and around the world. Students have the 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.

Employers like Recreation Integration Victoria (RIV) have been hiring UVic co-op students for more than 25 years. The inter-municipally funded service assists people with disabilities in Greater Victoria to pursue active lifestyles, and has hired more than 180 students since 1990 to help work towards this goal. In a 2011 study, these students overwhelmingly reported that their co-op experiences at RIV have positively impacted their career motivations and their lives.

Many other long-term co-op employers use co-op as a recruitment tool by hiring outstanding co-op students into full-time positions after graduation.“Co-op students make the greatest impact of anything we do,” says Doug Nutting, RIV’s executive director. “At RIV, students are immersed in a culture of inclusion and the philosophy and values that go with that, which is something the student takes with them when they leave us.”

The UVic Co-op Program uses a unique learning outcome assessment to measure student experiences on 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 it includes 13 co-op offices that provide opportunities for students in nearly every academic program at UVic. The program is indebted to Graham Branton, its longest-service director who dedicated 17 years to the development of UVic Co-op.


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Keywords: student life, community, employment, co-op

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