5 Reasons Why All University Programs Should Be Co-op (by a University of Waterloo Engineering Student)
Co-op programs have seen a 25% growth in recent years. For those who may not know what university co-op programs are, they are programs where in addition to getting the in school education you would with a traditional program, students also gain hands-on experience through mandatory internships. I’m currently studying at the University of Waterloo in their engineering co-op program and I thought I’d share five reasons why I think co-op programs are amazing and prepare you for the workplace.
Gain Relevant Experience
First of all, I think co-op programs are usually recognized for the amount of experience you get from them. For example, in the engineering co-op program at the University of Waterloo, we have 6 mandatory internships, which means you graduate with 2 years of experience! That’s a valuable asset to have in the competitive world we live in today. This experience allows you to put in practice what you have learned in school in ways school labs could never attain. You get to apply concepts and contribute to finding solutions to actual industry related problems. The experience is not only acquired from the work you do during your internships, but also from the people you get to work with. Interacting with many knowledgeable people in the industry with different backgrounds allows you to discover and try out different work styles and receive helpful tips from them.
Try Out Different Companies
By doing multiple internships, you have the chance to try different companies and job positions without having the “full-time employee commitment”. This is great especially if, like me, you know the industry you want to work in, but not exactly what job position you want to have. I love the fact that a co-op term is like a trial period of a company; it gives you time to get to know the people, the company values and the type of work you get to do at that specific firm. You are able to experience different kind of companies from startups to larger sized companies to local entreprises, so you have a better idea of the kind of environment you like or dislike when it comes to finding a full-time jobs. If you didn’t enjoy your experience, then it’s over after 4 months. On the contrary, if you did like it, your internship will most likely accelerate the hiring process after graduation, which gives you a great advantage on the other recent graduates you’ll be competing with for the job. Another great point to mention is that in a co-op program, you don’t have to wait 3 years to know if the industry is what you expected it to be; you get to discover it early on in the process. This could save you a crucial amount of time and money.
Grow Your Network
Your business network will highly benefit from a co-op program. Let’s take myself as an example. I’ve done 4 co-ops so far and I’ve met probably around 15 to 30 people at each company. It means that at this point in my career, there are more or less 100 people in the tech industry who know me, have worked with me or heard about my work one of the companies I’ve worked for. Those people will go on to other companies or even start their own which means I’ll have connections at even more companies than the initial 4 I’ve worked at. I’m able to connect with people I’ve worked with on LinkedIn to stay up to date on where they are in their career. This makes it easier to reach out to them if I’m seeking an internship oportunity at a company they work at. Also, people I’ve worked with will be likely to think of me if they are in a situation where they need to hire qualified people. They have worked with me and know what I’m capable of. This goes to show how having many internships helps growing a business network and how a big network is an great asset in the workplace.
The co-op program also makes you great (or maybe just a little more comfortable) at interviews. From my experience, students usually get between 5 and 10 interviews per term, even more if they have a great resume. This means that by the time they graduate, once more taking the UWaterloo engineer co-op as an example, they’ll have done around 48 interviews. After that many interviews, they know what to expect and how to prepare for them! Interviews are such an important skill to have in today’s workplace and co-op programs graduates are prepared for them whereas non co-op students often aren’t.
Make More Money!
An important point to mention is that co-op is a great way to pay for school and graduate without any debts, which only a minority of university students are able to do. Not only do you make money while you’re studying, but co-op students tend to make more money than non-co-op graduates after school. This makes sense, since you are qualified for jobs that require experience in the field right when you graduate!
Lastly, I think co-op programs are the best education to produce well prepared graduates for the workplace of any industry and I believe all university programs should follow this education model.
I hope this article made you understand the greatness of co-op programs and maybe inspired some of you to consider them!