noted that even at its peak, BlackBerry hired at
most 200 students every work term out of about
Other fast-growing technology companies in
the Kitchener-Waterloo area, including Open-Text and Desire2Learn (also U of Waterloo spin-offs) have stepped in to fill the void, she said. In
the 2012-13 academic year, U of Waterloo students earned $193 million on their work terms,
averaging $11,600 per student.
The University of Victoria, offering 224 co-op
programs, has also seen a steady increase in
placements since the end of the 2008 recession.
Last year, it placed 3,000 students with 1,200
companies and organizations.
“You hear all this worry from industry about
how there is this huge skills gap,” said Norah
McRae, executive director of UVic’s co-operative
education programs and career services. But, she
said, businesses should consider co-op programs
as a cost-effective way to train and recruit new
employees, adding that “universities can’t pro-
duce plug-and-play students.”
Applied learning is one of the fastest grow-
ing areas for Ontario universities, according to
a recent report by the Council of Ontario Universities. The report found that graduates from
bachelor programs with co-op experience earn
more than their peers, have higher employment
rates and are more likely to pay off their debt
within two years.
A multi-year study of co-op education and
work-integrated learning by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario surveyed students, faculty and employers in 2011 and 2012.
Co-op students reported higher levels of satisfaction with their programs, said they had benefitted
professionally from the experience and said the
experience had helped clarify their career goals.
They also graduated with lower debt. The study
found that employers offered higher starting sal-aries on average to graduates with work-integrated learning experiences. Employers also
reported using co-op programs to develop workforce skills required in their industry and as a
method to prescreen potential hires.
However, more than half of college students
and nine percent of university students in the
survey reported completing a co-op for which
they had not been paid. “That’s counter to almost
engineering program in 1957, the year the school
was founded. Co-op studies were originally con-
ceived as a pedagogical tool to enhance the learn-
ing experience of students. Peggy Jarvie, U of
Waterloo’s executive director of co-operative
education and career action, said the popularity
of co-op education today is fuelled by the growing
attention to learning outcomes and employability
U of Waterloo operates the largest co-op program in the world: almost two-thirds of its undergraduate students, about 17,000, are enrolled in
more than 140 co-op programs, all CAFCE-accredited. While the university’s undergraduate enrolment grew 38 percent between 2004 and 2013, its
co-op enrolment grew 58 percent in the same
U of Waterloo’s student employment rate
dipped slightly following the 2008 recession, but
since then has held steady at about 96 percent.
Even the retrenchment of BlackBerry, a one-time
U of Waterloo start-up and major employer in the
Kitchener-Waterloo area, hasn’t made a big dent
in student placements. “Certainly it’s having a huge
impact on the community,” Ms. Jarvie said, but she
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UNIVERSITY AFFAIRS IS MOVING!
On April 14, we will be moving up to the 17th floor
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