Conestoga focuses on providing career-focused education and training programs for students and Lori Shadrach, manager, Career Services believes that co-op programs are instrumental in accomplishing this goal. “Co-operative education puts theory into practice by reinforcing [student] knowledge and skills,” she said, “and it is an excellent way to gain experience while evaluating future career choices.”
Starting with four co-op programs in 1990, Conestoga now provides 61 programs with more than 1,900 students each year participating in co-ops at employers in the local community and around the world, including such locales as Hawaii, New York, the Yukon and Afghanistan. By September 2013, that number is expected to swell to more than 3,000 students.
According to Shadrach, the rising popularity of co-op programs is directly related to the advantages they provide for students in securing jobs. “By the time students have graduated, they often have an advantage over their peers who haven’t secured program-related employment,” she said. Many students are offered employment opportunities with their co-op employer by the time they graduate.
Co-op programs also offer advantages for students who haven’t quite decided on their future career aspirations. “Co-op work terms are typically 4 months,” said Shadrach, “and this gives students an opportunity to ‘test-drive’ a potential employer or sector.” She added that this process can often help students solidify their future career goals.
Employers benefit from co-op programs as well. Employers who offer co-op positions can explore new employment positions without extensive investment or long-term commitment. Co-op placements also provide opportunities for employers to evaluate students before considering them for permanent employment.
Visit the Co-op and Career Services Facebook page to share your story about a co-op experience or to write about your own career aspirations.