'Co-op has been an unbelievable experience'
This fall, Concordia’s Institute for Co-operative Education (Co-op) celebrates its 35th anniversary. Since its founding in 1980, the program has grown significantly, and now offers experiential learning opportunities to more than 1,700 students in 30 undergraduate and four graduate programs, while collaborating with hundred of employers.
At the 2015 Co-op Awards of Recognition Event (CARE) on May 21, the institute recognized the achievements and successes of both its students and its employers.
Gerry Hughes, the institute’s director, says the annual event provides an opportunity for celebration and reflection, “It’s an occasion where we bring students, employers, Concordia faculty, staff and alumni together to say ‘thank you’ for their overall positive contribution to our Co-op program.”
Hughes echoed the importance of on-the-job training for building confidence and self-awareness, explaining how Co-op allows students to “test-drive career options.”
The celebration, held in the J.A. DeSève Cinema, began with a screening of a video about the program, made by a Co-op student. It featured interviews with students describing what they feel they have gained from the Co-op experience, such as networking, job skills and resume building.
“You really get to test your academic knowledge in a context that is directly relevant, and there’s something absolutely magical about that," stated Benoit-Antoine Bacon, honorary speaker and Concordia’s Provost and vice-president, academic affairs.
He also pointed out that the Co-op program is strongly aligned with the university’s new strategic directions of “teach for tomorrow” and “get your hands dirty.”
Over the course of the ceremony, 22 awards were presented along with monetary prizes totalling almost $10,000. Among the many prizes distributed the Alexandre Quintal Co-op Student of the Year Award, received by Actuarial Mathematics student Jason Azzoparde.
“Co-op has been an unbelievable experience,” noted Azzoparde. “My path has been nothing short of an ascending journey.”
In November, Azzoparde was awarded the Bourse Gilles Joncas, given to the top co-op student in Quebec by the Association canadienne de l’enseignement cooperative (ACDEC), Quebec branch.
The CARE event also featured employer recognition awards. Bacon emphasized that the ceremony was not only about recognizing students but also the “partners in this venture that employ our students, that hire them, that bring them into their worlds.”
Asked to share an employer’s point of view was Jeffrey Sacksner, senior manager at Pratt and Whitney, a company responsible for taking on between 300-400 Co-op interns a year. In his speech, Sacksner pointed out how Co-op students bring fresh ideas, good attitudes and creativity to the workplace.
“We are banking our future on you,” urged Sacksner. “You are the future.”