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By Anna Sarkissian
School, work, school, work. Three to four years of back-to-back work terms and school semesters may sound like a challenge.
But for students enrolled in degree programs via the Institute for Co-operative Education, the payoff is huge.
Thirty students had a platform to talk about their experiences during the Co-op Student Showcase posters presentation in the EV lobby on April 8.
“Our co-op students graduate with a competitive advantage,” says Chen Huang, interim director of the institute. “Over the last 30 years, thousands of students have benefited from co-op, a program at the forefront of educational innovation.”
Work terms are typically four months long and students are hired by private industry, not-for-profit organizations and government agencies. This three-way partnership benefits the student, the university and the employer.
Biochemistry student Shihadeh Anani didn’t know about co-op when he first came to Concordia. A friend told him about it and he was immediately interested.
Anani got hands-on experience in a lab doing Alzheimer’s research at Merck Frosst Canada and evaluating various applications of two biological tools at PerkinElmer BioSignal Inc. He liked the change of pace from work to school.
“I loved the experience and the work that I was doing, so I was into it,” he says.
Plus, the salary helped ease the financial burden of going to school full-time. On average, Anani earned $15 an hour and is graduating with no student debt. His academics didn’t suffer either; he was on the Dean’s List.
Accountancy student Matthew Battah completed work terms at Casansa Design and the Canada Revenue Agency. His poster listed a number of benefits of his government job: his job was relevant to his degree and future career; he expanded his network; and he collaborated with a diverse group of people with different outlooks and perspectives. Battah has secured a third term with one of the top accounting firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Anani has similar praise for his environment. “My employers were very supportive. I learned at my own pace,” he says. “Now I tell all my friends to join. It’s worth it.”
The institute was approved by Senate in 1980 and is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this year. Co-op now has more than 1 200 students participating in over 40 experiential learning programs across the university, with more than 2 100 grads since the beginning.