Students to get more co-op opportunities, life skills through work experience

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Post-secondary students will have more opportunities to gain real-life, relevant work experience that will give them a career leg up, benefiting employers.rrLearn more:

Post-secondary students will have more opportunities to gain real-life, relevant work experience that will give them a career leg up, benefiting employers.

An investment of $9 million in co-op and work-integrated learning was announced on Monday, June 10, 2019, by Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. She was joined by students, staff, faculty and employers at the University of Victoria.

“Work-integrated learning programs like co-ops open the door for students to gain invaluable hands-on experience,” Mark said. “Graduates enter the job market industry-ready with real world connections in their chosen field of work. Last year’s investment of $75,000 to all 25 public-post secondary institutions went a long way. This $9-million investment will substantially increase the number of opportunities for students to get the experience they need for in-demand careers close to home.”

The funding will support increased opportunities for students who are currently under-represented in co-op and work-integrated learning, including Indigenous students and students with disabilities.

“Co-op education gives students the opportunity to develop new skills and helps them excel in their career,” said Laura Grondahl, software developer and co-op student supervisor at LlamaZOO Interactive Inc. – a 3D data visualization company. “Employers benefit from students’ energy, fresh ideas, knowledge and skills, and get the chance to assess new talent for recruitment after graduation.”

Education and skills training continue to be a vital factor when finding a job. The B.C. Labour Market Outlook forecasts that, over the next decade, there will be more than 900,000 job openings that will need to be filled. Of those job openings, 77% will require some level of post-secondary education or training. Co-op and work integrated learning are opening doors and creating pathways for students to fill those openings.

“Through my co-op placements, I was given the space to practise translating my favourite classroom topics into real-world action,” said Mataya Jim, a UVic undergraduate student who is completing a double major in sociology and Indigenous studies. “I was inspired by and able to learn from talented Indigenous and non-Indigenous female leaders within my field.”

The ministry will work with the Accountability Council for Co-op Education and Work-Integrated Learning to allocate funding to institutions and sector partners through a proposal-based application process that will start in summer 2019.

Investing in co-op, apprenticeship and work experience programs for high-school and undergraduate students supports the 2017 Confidence and Supply Agreement with the BC Green Party caucus to build a sustainable economy that works for everyone.

“This substantial investment in co-op and other forms of experiential learning is essential in preparing students throughout B.C. for the challenges of today’s ever-changing economic landscape,” said Andrew Weaver, BC Green Party leader and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head. “Our labour-market demands educated and experienced workers, and co-op programs graduate highly skilled and versatile employees.”


Rob Fleming, Minister of Education and MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake –

“Bringing students and employers together by expanding work-integrated learning opportunities and offering hands-on experience is a great way to match classroom skills with the demands of industry. This will prepare students for a lifetime of employment and will support a strong, diverse economy that works for everyone.”

Jamie Cassels, president, UVic –

“This substantial investment by the Province is great news for post-secondary education. Increasing work-integrated learning opportunities will enable UVic to build on the strength of our co-op program, inform our approach to collaborative learning and help our students develop skills and find pathways towards personal success and to contribute as citizens.”

Jennie Nilsson, president, Association for Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning B.C./Yukon –

“Work-integrated learning has been the heart of the applied-learning model at post-secondary institutions for years. Taking education beyond the classroom empowers students to make a real impact in each of their prospective industries and provides industry the chance to train the next generation of talent.”

Quick Facts:

  • Co-op is the most recognized form of work-integrated learning.
  • In 2018-19, there were about 17,000 co-op work placements involving nearly 7,800 different employers who paid more than $196.4 million in student wages.
  • Co-op placements are concentrated in engineering (31% of placements in 2018-19), administration/business (18%), science (14%) and computer science (16%).
  • The majority of students completing co-op work placements are at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria (together, 85% of co-op students in 2018-19).
  • About 11,300 (67%) of co-op work placements were with private-sector employers, about 4,800 (28%) with public sector employers (municipal, provincial and federal ministries and agencies), and about 900 (5%) with non-profit organizations.
  • The Accountability Council for Co-op Education and Work-Integrated Learning is comprised of one member from each public, post-secondary co-operative education and work-integrated learning institution in B.C. and the Yukon.