Nov. 5, 2020Print | PDF
The pandemic has changed many things, but employers’ support for students in Wilfrid Laurier University’s co-operative education programs isn’t one of them.
This fall, employers across the Greater Toronto Area and Waterloo Region are employing more than 640 Laurier co-op students in accounting and financial services, consumer packaged goods, consulting, healthcare and technology industries.
“Our co-op program is very strong. Laurier students are talented and have a reputation for being flexible and motivated. It’s a strong track record, and the word gets out."
Over the summer, more than 470 co-op students were employed, and another 700 co-op students are seeking positions for the winter 2021 term.
Laurier’s co-op program, which alternates academic learning with paid work experiences, continues to see some of the highest employment rates in Canada.
“Our co-op program is very strong,” says Laurie Lahn, associate director of co-operative education and external relations at Laurier. “Laurier students are talented and have a reputation for being flexible and motivated. It’s a strong track record, and the word gets out.”
Word reached Margaret Tavares, sales and operations manager at Vehikl, a software consulting firm in Waterloo, in the spring. Tavares was planning her team’s involvement in Laracon Online, a large-scale, international conference for web developers, when COVID-19 forced her to move their efforts for the August event online.
“Having Ben and Chloe at Vehikl was an incredible experience. They were so driven and passionate about what needed to be done. They completely exceeded my expectations.”
“I needed help to plan, market and host our conference activities in a virtual format,” says Tavares. “Our founder, Chris Keithlin, who graduated from Laurier, said they had a great co-op program with students who would have the skills I was looking for.”
A first-time co-op employer, Vehikl hired Benjamin Henry, a double-degree business administration and computer science student, and Chloe Chua, a double-degree business administration and financial mathematics student, in July. Henry and Chua worked closely with Tavares and contributed to all aspects of conference planning and execution, including pitching conference marketing strategies, tracking 5,000-plus registrants in the conference database and recording client lectures.
“Having Ben and Chloe at Vehikl was an incredible experience,” says Tavares. “They were so driven and passionate about what needed to be done. They completely exceeded my expectations.”
Chua is working part time at Vehikl during the fall term and will return with Henry in January for a second full-time co-op experience at Vehikl. Tavares is currently working with Laurier’s Career Services team to recruit a recent Laurier graduate for a full-time position.
Third-year Laurier Science student Cassandra Beaulieu has also had her summer co-op position turn into fall-term employment.
Beaulieu is working as a COVID-19 emergency response coordinator at Homewood Health, the largest mental health and addictions recovery centre in the country, as part of Health Canada’s Wellness Together Canada program. The program, funded by the Government of Canada, provides free access to telephone counselling, web tools and other mental health resources to support the unprecedented rise in mental distress among Canadians amid the pandemic.
"I have never felt more secure in my ability to respond to emergencies, and I know the skills I’ve developed through this position will complement my career interest in geriatrics.”
Since April, Beaulieu and three other Laurier students in arts and science programs have triaged calls, administered intake questionnaires, created client files and connected callers with the appropriate mental health resources. The positions allow Beaulieu and her Laurier colleagues to work remotely and use knowledge acquired through their studies in psychology and sociology.
“This position has truly broadened my skill set,” says Beaulieu. “I have never felt more secure in my ability to respond to emergencies, and I know the skills I’ve developed through this position will complement my career interest in geriatrics.”
Commitment from employers, new and long-term alike, is one aspect of Laurier’s successful co-op program. The other is the dedication of co-op staff coordinating positions with employers.
“Our co-op coordinators have worked hard during the past six months to provide employers with more flexibility to hire co-op students,” says Lahn. “Accommodating remote working arrangements, varying the length of the work term and providing information about funding to assist with salaries are just some of the ways co-op staff are supporting employers so that they can, in turn, employ Laurier students.”
Employers interested in learning more about Laurier’s co-op program can email firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with a co-operative education professional.
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