As university students place a greater importance on gaining relevant, degree-related work experience before they graduate, potential employers can have a key role to play.
Employers can provide the opportunities that allow students to work while studying, and play a part in shaping and developing the skills of the incoming workforce. One of the primary avenues of opportunity is through Carleton University’s Co-op Program.
Ryan Billard is one student taking advantage of the benefits the co-op program provides.
“I chose the co-op program because I believe getting work experience relevant to your degree should be done as early as possible,” said Billard. “The software engineering program was a great fit for me because it provides a balanced mix of hands-on and classroom learning. My program prepared me for my work terms by giving me the foundations of good software development and teaching me the skills required to work effectively within a team.”
Carleton reviews course offerings on a regular basis to ensure that students can not only compete in the workforce, but also drive it forward.
Since joining the co-op program, Billard, now in his third-year, has completed three consecutive work terms (one year) as a Software Developer Intern at Shopify.
Get your pick of proven talent
Multiple work terms give students the chance to explore their career interests and determine what kind of job they’d like to pursue upon graduation. Employers get to recruit their pick of new graduates who are very focused on a specific career path, with relevant work experience and highly-developed skills.
Co-op work terms are also a chance for students to become familiar with the job application and interview process, offset a large portion of their tuition costs and put theory into practice while gaining real world work experience. Additionally, many students develop a strong network of industry contacts while working, and maintain a relationship with their co-op employer after their work term has ended.
“Through Ryan’s contributions, our team has been able to get a lot more work done that we may not have been able to otherwise,” said Joshua Gosse, Billard’s previous work term supervisor.
Billard continues to work at Shopify part-time while completing his final year of studies at Carleton. This kind of continued engagement provides employers with a prime opportunity to evaluate co-op students as prospective permanent employees.
“If a company is able to show that they can provide good mentorship, are interested in your personal development and are willing to teach you how the industry works, this often results in the student wanting to come back to work at the company full-time once they graduate,” said Billard. “It’s a two-way relationship; as a student, you learn a lot from the company, but the company also gains a lot from you because you can contribute to the work they’re doing.”
Hands-on, industry-relevant work experience
Enrollment in Carleton University’s Co-op Program has been steadily increasing since 2010. Throughout the 2014-2015 academic year alone, 954 Carleton co-op students were hired for work terms—and that number continues to grow.
“We have about 110 more students seeking work terms compared to this time last year,” said Julie Bebbington, Manager of Carleton’s Co-op Program. “More and more, students are recognizing the value and long-term benefits of the experiential learning opportunities co-op provides.”
Students who successfully complete the specified number of co-op work terms, in addition to their degree program’s academic requirements, will receive a Co-operative Education designation on their degree. This special designation indicates to future employers that Carleton’s co-op students have graduated with, at minimum, 12 months of valuable, hands-on and industry-relevant work experience.
Carleton is inviting all employers to post co-op jobs now for the summer work term, which begins May 1, 2016.