Want to get hired quickly after you graduate? Canada’s co-op education will help
High graduate employability has often been a key factor for students when it comes to choosing and applying to a particular university.
Often, institutions provide multiple programs and initiatives to support and add value to students, preparing them for the inevitable step into the working world.
In a similar vein, majority of Canada’s institutions have in place a system called cooperative education - a structured way of combining classroom-based education with practical work experience.
Such a system, commonly known as co-op education, is also available in some of the country’s top universities. It allows students to experience alternating a semester of coursework with a semester of paid employment - and this cycle can repeat several times until graduation.
It’s also become a pull factor for international students in Canada, adding to the array of reasons why the country has become such a popular destination.
How is co-op offered?
Most institutions with co-op education offer it as an option to their regular program curricula. Such admissions can be competitive, with applicants required to exhibit both high academic performance and passing certain interviews. Often, most optional co-op programs allow entry in the fall of the second year of study, allowing selected students to first gain a solid foundation in their first year.
If you’d like to check out the full list, the Canadian Co-operative Education Directory provides a comprehensive listing of the post-secondary co-operative education programs of member institutions in Canada.
Key benefits of co-op education
Besides allowing students to gain work experience and earn some money at the same time (which helps to cover a portion of one’s cost of living in Canada (internal link to cost of living in Canada page) - there are multiple benefits to receiving a co-op education.
1) Applying classroom theory to a practical setting
One advantage for students is that they can apply whatever they’ve learned in the workplace they get attached to. For example, if you’re taking a co-op program in computer software programming, you may be placed at a software development company - a perfect opportunity for students to realise and hone their skills.
2) Ability to clock in up to two years of work experience
Just by being in multiple work semesters, you’d have accumulated up to two years of work experience. For example, the University of Waterloo - which had the first co-op program in Canada and also the largest co-op program in the world - has 24 months worth of work experience for its students, the longest in Canada.
3) Establishing contacts and network with potential employers and co-workers
During your placement in a company, you’ll be able to meet co-workers and other figures who might play a key role in your future career progression or even to just keep you abreast of industry developments. This formation of a network is a vital advantage especially when you’re applying to a fresh role upon graduation.
4) Building a career portfolio to support future applications
Whatever you’ve achieved or accomplished in your work placement, you’d be able to catalogue them into a portfolio - which will help catch the eye of potential employers and increase your chances of getting hired.
5) Developing key marketable skills for workplace success
During the course of your work terms, the problems and issues you face at work, for example, are opportunities that allow you to conceive and apply solutions. Such scenarios will also allow you to develop skill sets that will benefit you in the particular industry, adding to and polishing your repertoire of skills you already possess.