Selkirk College is joining institutions across Canada in celebrating Co-operative Education Week March 14 to 18, marking a tradition more than two decades old at the local post-secondary school.
“The Co-op Education Program at Selkirk College is over 25 years of age,” says Brenda Smith, Manager of Co-op Education & Employment Services (CEES). “That’s quite the legacy of connecting students and employers. We are pleased to celebrate all that we’ve achieved during this week of national recognition.”
Department of Co-op Education & Employment Services staff gather at lunch break on the Selkirk College Castlegar Campus with a crew of their students to recognize Co-op Education Week.
Co-op education formally connects academic studies with paid work experience. Students apply what they’ve been studying in the classroom taking academic theory into the real world where the learning continues.
Selkirk College has seven programs that offer a co-op education component. Business Administration has two programs, Accounting/Finance and Professional Management, which place students in the workforce. Geographic Information Systems, Integrated Environmental Planning, Recreation Fish & Wildlife, Forest Technology, and the University Transfer Engineering Program all offer co-op opportunities.
Program Opens Up Tremendous Opportunity
The Department of Co-op Education & Employment Services engages with more than 300 students each year.
Smith says the benefits of a co-op education partnership extend to all parties involved. Local employers such as Yule & Anderson C.P.A. and Mountain Transport Institute, along with BC Timber Sales and Parks Canada are able to evaluate a student as a potential future employee. As temporary staff, students can also help meet short-term needs, work on special projects or fill in for vacationing regular employees.
“Our students come into their work placement full of enthusiasm, new ideas and approaches,” says Smith.
Students taking part in the Co-op Education Program are able to test out a broad range of career options. The relevant and quality work experience adds significant value to their resume and increased confidence comes from practicing technical skills.
Brad Bruneau, a Recreation Fish & Wildlife student completed a 16-week co-op education placement last August with the Regional District of Central Okanagan. Bruneau discovered he enjoyed spending time in the park more than sampling, both being options for future employment. The second year student feels the co-op education placement gives him an edge when it comes to looking for work after graduation.
“It’s a good way to get your foot in the door if you don’t already have one there,” he says.
Geoff Matheson, a Forest Technology student agrees, pointing out that Selkirk College is fantastic at finding placements because of longstanding partnerships with industry. He did his co-op with BC Timber Sales in Grand Forks.
“A lot of these jobs are exclusively for Selkirk students,” he says. “This gives us an inside track which is a huge advantage.”
Tying It All Together
Smith says Selkirk College also reaps great rewards from facilitating the connection between the worlds of work and education. The Co-op Education Program attracts top-quality and well-motivated students who enhance the overall school body.
“At the same time, linking with employers allows us to gain feedback on the content and relevance of program curricula,” she says. “Being active partners in the current work world is important for an educational institution. After all, our aim is to help students toward their future careers.”
The legacy continues to grow as the Department of Co-op Education & Employment Services now offers new job preparation services for the increasing number of international students at the college wanting to access the program and the world of work. In addition, a new initiative will be rolling out next year with enhanced service for employers and students accessing the CEES Career Portal on the Nelson campuses.