Work term in China leads to full-time career

- Joy Poliquin

While many soon-to-be graduates are preparing to dive into job search mode, Jason Zapantis can rest easy. The mechanical engineering graduate has been employed by Victoria’s Silian Sapphire for four years, and is happily settled into his role as process engineer.

Zapantis has always been motivated—as a student in Camosun’s mechanical engineering bridge program, he knew that he wanted to explore career options in the high-tech industry. He approached Silian Sapphire (then called Honeywell Specialty Materials) to see if he could complete a co-op work term with the company, which supplies sapphire substrates for use in the production of LED lighting. After a successful work term, Zapantis transferred to UVic, but stayed connected to Silian.

“When I came to UVic and entered the Engineering Co-op Program, I knew that I wanted to continue working with Silian,” he says. “The company had just been acquired by China’s Silian Instrumentation Group, which was opening a pilot manufacturing plant in Chongqing. I was asked to move to China to help oversee the plant operations, which was an incredible learning experience.”

Zapantis spent 16 months in Chongqing, a non-westernized region of 40 million people where English was rarely spoken. As the only staff member who was not yet a university graduate, he adapted quickly, helping Chinese staff set up the plant and begin production. He did such a good job that he began working part-time for Silian after his return to Canada, returning to China dozens of times and completing his co-op requirements along the way. In fact, he delayed his graduation date in order to extend one of his work terms and gain even more experience.

“I’ve had a unique journey, since I completed all of my co-op work terms with one company. But over the course of my degree, Silian Sapphire has grown so much, and with it, I’ve seen increased opportunity. I’ve become an expert in an expanding industry, and I’ve found a career that has such promise.”

His advice to students just starting out: “Find your own path—approach employers that haven’t posted co-op positions and ask if they’ve considered a co-op student. You might be able to develop your own role, which could lead to experience in unexpected areas.”


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Keywords: jason, zapantis

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