Building bridges between university life and the workplace

Submitted by ashton.wenborn on Mon, 11/22/2021 - 16:09

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At Concordia University in Montreal, students gain hands-on work experience and make vital professional connections through the school’s Institute for Co-operative Education.

With more than 3,000 job postings annually, the institute is one of the largest placement programmes at a Canadian university. It helps students across all faculties find diverse work-study placements and internships.

For many students, the institute is a valuable resource to ease the transition they face after graduation. Through the programme, students jump-start their careers by mixing full-time academic terms with full-time, paid work terms where they acquire practical, on-the-job skills and build a professional network.

Tiffany Lafleur, employee communications manager at Air Canada in Montreal, completed three Co-op internships while at Concordia. She explains how the programme helped her tackle the post-graduation transition and stand out from other applicants.

“The best thing about the Co-op programme is that it bridges the gap between the theory we learn in class and the expectations that would be placed on us as real-world professionals after graduation,” Lafleur says. “After my internships, I felt ready to take on the challenges of the working world.

“Being a Co-op student gave me a leg up on the competition, as well as an idea of current professional norms. By the time I graduated, I had already written countless cover letters, done plenty of interviews and had a pretty good idea of what kind of work I was really interested in doing.”

Gain experience with Montreal’s top employers

Co-op students benefit from working with some of Montreal’s top employers, including Tesla, Ubisoft, Parks Canada, Bombardier, United Way Centraide Canada, Ericsson, Ernst & Young, Pfizer and L’Oreal.

“Concordia spares no effort in making the very best work-integrated learning opportunities available in a broad diversity of fields and organisations,” says Claude Martel, director of the institute. “The Co-op programme acts as an essential tool of development for students, as well as an important talent pool for employers.”

For Amara Ngadi, a finance and data intelligence student at the John Molson School of Business, the Co-op programme offered her a chance to work in different industries and explore career paths before graduation.

“The Co-op programme completely enriched my experience at Concordia, and my work terms are some of my biggest career achievements. I wanted to know if I would enjoy working in my field before graduation, so I applied to Co-op when I chose my major. So far, I’ve worked at Reitmans, Bombardier and Export Development Canada, and I am so grateful for these life-changing experiences,” Ngadi says.

Explore the world while you work

As a Co-op student, your internship can take place almost anywhere in the world. In addition to local placements, Concordia offers opportunities for students to work abroad through various international partnerships and affiliations.

Living abroad gives students a chance to experience different work cultures, build a global network and explore what the world has to offer. For physics student Mariya Krasteva, it was a launch pad to international astrophysics.

“At the European Space Agency, I got to see the space industry as a whole, since the agency is an entire, gigantic campus with people from all over Europe,” Krasteva says. “I took advantage of being able to email anyone, and I set up a series of small, informative interviews to ask, ‘What do you do in your life?’ I realised the spectrum of possibility is huge. It opened my eyes to a whole other world.”

Tools for success 

Regardless of internship location, the Co-op programme sets the stage for success by providing students with guidance and support through training, skill development courses, coaching and mentorship opportunities.

For Ngadi, the support had a significant impact. “Fortunately, Co-op offers interview preparation, cover letter-writing workshops, mentorship and many other valuable resources. During my first search term, I worked with a Co-op mentor and he really helped me perfect my cover letter, CV and interview skills. Working with a mentor was such a great experience that I decided to become a Co-op mentor to offer younger students tips and tricks on how to succeed,” Ngadi says.

The success of Concordia’s Institute for Co-operative Education, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2020, speaks for itself. Studies have shown that Co-op students’ academic performance improves after work term experiences. Students also tend to find better jobs more easily after graduation and advance more quickly in their careers.

In addition to the Institute’s flagship undergraduate Co-op programme, it offers work-study placements and internship options geared towards graduate students, women in engineering and students looking for flexible and intensive opportunities.

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Find out more about Concordia’s Institute for Co-operative Education.

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Standfirst

By offering students the opportunity to combine study and work placements, Concordia University’s Institute for Co-operative Education is equipping them with the skills for career success