Co-op Employers of the Year


- Emma Ulveland

NASA CAPSTONE spacecraft integration. Credit: Rocket Lab


Each year, UVic recognizes employers who have gone above and beyond to provide co-operative education learning experiences for UVic students. UVic co-op employers have supported more than 100,000 co-op placements since the co-op program launched in 1976. 

We want to acknowledge all co-op employers for their extraordinary contributions to the UVic experience. Here are this year’s award winners. 

Rocket Lab

International employer

The sky’s the limit with Rocket Lab, this year’s winner of the International Co-op Employer of the Year. As a global leader in rocket and satellite design and manufacturing, spacecraft components, software and launch services, it’s no surprise that the multinational company is invested in the next generation. They’re an employer of choice for UVic co-op students looking to contribute to a world-changing industry. 

UVic’s relationship with Rocket Lab began in 2013 when three mechanical engineering students won first place in an international rocket building competition. Spurred by this experience, one of these students reached out to Rocket Lab to set up a co-op work term in the world of rocket science, and a partnership was born.

Since 2014, 13 software and mechanical engineering co-op students have completed a total of 23 work terms with Rocket Lab; this trend of staying with the company for a second work term is a testament to the strength of the learning opportunities. The company is a major proponent of hands-on learning—more than 80 per cent of students who complete co-ops and other forms of internships join the team after graduation, including eight UVic alumni. 

Rocket Lab also puts a focus on supporting women in science, with more than 25 per cent of placements being made by female-identifying co-op students. Students are hired in positions ranging from junior manufacturing engineers to production design interns. They’re tasked with solving real problems that impact the success of rocket launches and work alongside senior engineers at every stage. 

“There’s no cap on the type of work that students are given—we’re respected, appreciated and supported in our learning,” says a former co-op student. “I was tasked with testing hardware for a big upcoming mission and was responsible for connecting with other design and test engineers to meet that goal. The rocket launched a few months after I returned to Canada.”

Rocket Lab is also a community change maker, providing more than $100,000 in annual community grants and scholarship and injecting more than $20 million into local economics through direct and indirect employment.  

The company has locations in the US, Canada and New Zealand, with the majority of placements taking place in Auckland. 

“Rocket Lab’s commitment to providing quality work-integrated learning and mentorship is outstanding,” says Karima Ramji, associate director of UVic’s Indigenous and International Strategic Initiatives with the co-op team. “Students are encouraged to innovate, and their experiences are incredibly impactful as they develop their careers.”

Aecon Construction Group Inc.

Employer with more than 50 employees (tie)

With more than a decade since hiring its first UVic co-op student, Aecon Construction Group Inc. is on a roll. The industry leader in civil construction and infrastructure development has provided 80 work terms to UVic students since 2010, with 72 work terms in the last 5 years alone. The opportunity to gain exposure and experience in construction management, and to be immersed in the day-to-day operations of large-scale, complex projects has made Aecon an employer of choice for co-op students and graduates alike, so it’s no surprise that it’s been named one of the 2022 UVic Co-op Employers of the year (50+ employees).

“Aecon is a tremendous learning partner,” says Wendy Beairsto, co-op coordinator with UVic’s engineering and computer science co-op programs. “Staff treat students as professionals from day one and make them feel like a valued member of the team. They also encourage students to pursue projects that line up with their areas of interest and future career goals.”

When hiring students who are studying civil and mechanical engineering, Aecon provides opportunities to make industry connections. Students have contributed to some of Western Canada’s foremost, landmark civil projects including the Site C Generating Station and Spillway, Kicking Horse Canyon Phase 4, Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project and the Second Narrows Water Supply Tunnel. 

Students often return to Aecon for a second co-op and the company has a history of recruiting past co-op students into full-time positions up to a year before students graduate. “This makes such a different in student learning as it lets them focus on their last year of students and takes away the uncertainty of finding work,” says Beairsto.

As a UVic partner, Aecon is a regular sponsor and participant at on-campus career events and works closely with UVic student groups to offer learning opportunities. The company is also known for their positive and encouraging work culture and is recognized in the market as an employer of choice for engineering and construction professionals.

BC Transit

Employer with more than 50 employees (tie)

What do UVic co-op students find so rewarding about their co-op work experiences with BC Transit? Students thrive in the inclusive and learning-focused environment and are immediately welcomed as true members of the team. It’s a dynamic that has made this province-wide employer one of students’ favourite places to work and one of the 2022 UVic Co-op Employers of the Year. 

Operating in both small towns and large urban centres alike, BC Transit transports over 57 million customers in communities across the province each year. For the past 12 years, more than 115 UVic co-op students from programs as diverse as civil engineering to commerce to health information science have joined the team as fleet engineering assistants, business analysts and more.

Our students rave about their co-op experiences at BC Transit. From working with our team to develop inclusive job postings to fostering an inclusive environment where all perspectives are welcomed, there’s a lot to like.” 

Calvin Tripp, co-op coordinator with UVic’s engineering and computer science co-op program

BC Transit provides co-op students with independence, flexibility and autonomy in their projects, while still maintaining quality training and resources. This includes the co-op student ‘buddy system’ where students are paired with a staff member who ensures students have what they need to succeed, as well as established opportunities to connect with leadership. 

Students who work for BC Transit also have access to courses that aligned with their interests, as well as encouragement from staff to incorporate those interests into their work. Learning about other departments and making connections with staff in other areas pave the way for professional growth. 

“My boss took the time to meet with me regularly to ensure that I was being challenged and learning things that were relevant to my career development,” says a former co-op student. “I felt like I produced work I was proud of and was able to make a meaningful contribution to the communities we were serving.”

Trev and Joyce Deeley Research Centre (BC Cancer Research)

Employer with under 50 employees

When UVic co-op students join the team at the Trev and Joyce Deeley Research Centre’s Molecular and Cellular Immunology Core (MCIC) here in Victoria, they contribute to life-changing cancer research. As a world leader in advancing what we know about how the immune system and cancer interact, the MCIC encourages students to bring their critical thinking skills to work each day. This collaborative approach has made the research centre stand out as the 2022 Co-op Employer of the Year (under 50 employees).

“At the end of every eight-month co-op term, students have been exposed to a broad scope of techniques and have completed an immunological technique research project,” says UVic science co-op coordinator Heather Croft. “These experiences help students develop their analytical and critical thinking skills as well as their ability to discuss big ideas.”

Deeley Research Centre has welcomed UVic co-op students into 96 co-op work terms since it first started hiring in 2011. Fifty-seven of these biochemistry, microbiology, biomedical engineering, and mathematics and statistics students have worked with Katy Milne, a UVic alum who was one of the first scientists to join the team in 2003 and whose leadership has helped the team advance what we know about how cancer hides from the immune system.

“Katy consistently provides co-op students with an exceptional depth and quality of experience,” says Croft. “Thanks to her mentorship, students have contributed to more than 30 peer-reviewed publications. They regularly share how Katy’s kind, courteous and encouraging approach has shaped their interest in careers as researchers or health care practitioners.” 

In fact, co-op students who complete a work term with MCIC have returned to work as research interns and research assistants after completing their degrees, a testament to the powerful impact of this world-class learning environment.

Benefits for employers

Employer partnerships are at the heart of the co-op program’s ongoing success, and many employers go above and beyond to support students’ professional development. Work term placements give students the opportunity to apply their academic studies and bring emerging knowledge into the workplace—a virtuous circle where building career skills benefits both student and employer.

For more information about participating in co-op as a student or employer, visit the co-op website.


In this story

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

Publication: The Ring

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