Nearing the end of high school, students are pressured to select an academic path, one which they will be on for the next three to ten years (depending on program and level). I was lucky enough to have a relative who was enrolled into a co-op program at the undergraduate level to guide my decision making. She explained to me that co-operative education (co-op) provides a structured way of learning that incorporates in-class learning with periods of work placements. In addition, she shared personal experiences from her co-op terms to help me get a better understanding of how co-op can kick start my career. As a result, she strongly influenced me to enroll in a program that offered a co-op option.
Now having completed two co-op terms and nearing the end of my third term, I can proudly say that I have benefited greatly from my co-op experiences. In this blog post I will share some benefits that I have experienced from being enrolled into a co-op program.
- Additional source of income while gaining valuable work experience:
Through co-op most students have the opportunity to bring in a source of income while gaining work experience. I’ve used the money that I earned to help pay for housing/living expenses, tuition fees, and textbooks. As a result, I have reduced the total amount of funding needed from student loans.
- Networking and identifying the right industry and work environment for you:
Co-op provides students with a platform to network and meet new individuals. In addition, it is also an opportunity to work in different industries and work environments; this may allow you to determine which setting is the best fit for you. For example, I had the opportunity to work for a mental health clinic, an oil and gas company, and now a teaching centre; next I am hoping to land a placement in a governmental sector or a placement that requires extensive field work. As a result, when I complete my required co-op terms, I will be able to identify which industry and which work environment best complements my skills and interests.
- Learning new processes and software, while developing a diverse skill set:
Depending on the assigned task in your placement you may be given training on various organizational processes and software. The newly learnt processes and software can potentially provide you with a competitive advantage over other job applicants upon graduating. Likewise, co-op also provides the opportunity to enhance your skill set. For example, in my past co-op role, in order to improve my oral communication skills, I volunteered to present various topics to new clients. Furthermore, you can also schedule a performance evaluation with your supervisor(s) in order to gain feedback on your progress and continually improve your skills and performance.
- Exciting opportunities:
During your co-op term you may be presented with many exciting opportunities. In my past co-op term, I was able to attend two Toronto Raptors basketball games and visited Ripley’s Aquarium for the first time. Here at the Centre for Teaching Excellence, I have the chance to complete the Fundamentals of University Teaching certificate program, which is only offered to graduate students. Furthermore, my friends who worked for other organizations as co-op students have attended car shows and even got to travel parts of Canada. The opportunities that can arise throughout a co-op term largely depend on the organization itself and your role in the organization.
In short, being enrolled into a co-op program has many benefits. However, it is entirely up to you to decide if a co-op program aligns with your goals and interests. If you want to know more about co-op at the University of Waterloo visit the Co-operative Education website.
University of Waterloo. (n.d.). Co-operative Education. Retrieved from https://uwaterloo.ca/co-operative-education/about-co-operative-education