‘It’s the motivated students who apply’

Concordia’s Marketing Co-op Program has been providing work experience, and a foot in the door, for more than 20 years
January 19, 2016
By Tom Peacock

Co-op student Julie-Anne Arsenault: “It helped me figure out what I wanted from the workplace, and what my criteria were for my career.” Julie-Anne Arsenault in Seattle: "Co-op helped me figure out what I wanted from the workplace."

Back in 1994, Harold Simpkins was asked to help set up a Co-op program in Concordia’s Department of Marketing. But first, he had to determine if there was enough demand to justify the cost.

The senior lecturer in the John Molson School of Business (JMSB) mailed letters to companies and not-for-profit organizations to gauge the level of interest in hiring Marketing Co-op students.

The response rate was incredible, he says. “I sent about 30 letters and I got something like 23 back saying, ‘Yes, we would be interested.’”

Selective, demanding and rewarding

The following year, the Marketing Co-op program was up and running. Simpkins has served as its academic director ever since.

Currently, it’s one of more than 30 programs offered through Concordia’s Institute for Co-operative Education, and there are almost 150 students enrolled in it every year. But enthusiasm for hiring them hasn’t waned. In fact, there are often more work terms available than candidates to fill them.

“Our challenge is just getting more and more students to apply,” Simpkins says.

Not everyone is accepted, though. The required GPA is higher than what’s required for admittance to JMSB and students have to be willing to alternate between work and study terms for the duration of the program.

“As part of their Co-op journey, students complete three paid work terms of up to 17 weeks each. They're either working or studying full time with no terms off, including the summer,” Simpkins says. “My sense is that it’s the motivated students who apply.”

Learning how to show up

Julie-Anne Arsenault, BComm 01, audience marketing manager at Microsoft in Seattle, was among the first students to enrol in the marketing Co-op program. She was attracted by the promise of professional experience. 

Julie-Anne Arsenault Julie-Anne Arsenault

Looking back on her work terms at TD BankPratt & Whitney and Omni, a Laval-based beverage distribution company, Arsenault says Co-op helped smooth her entry into the job market in many ways.

For one thing, she says, “you learn how to show up at work in a professional environment. It’s something that's not innate; it's acquired.”

Being in Co-op also exposed her to a variety of work environments and challenges. “It helped me figure out what I wanted from the workplace, and what my criteria were for my career.”

From Co-op employee to employer

Lucrezia Sciascia, a second-year student at JMSB and a member of the Marketing Co-op Program, just wrapped up her first work term with PepsiCo. She spent it traveling around the Montreal region as a sales rep for the company’s Frito-Lay division. 

“It’s very long hours, very demanding work, but you learn a lot,” she says.

Lucrezia Sciascia Lucrezia Sciascia

PepsiCo is already trying to figure out how they can get her to come back for a second work term and possibly even a third — grooming her for a future career with them.

“They're trying to structure a program that will have me touch every aspect of the company,” she says.

Completing a Co-op work term provides that one obvious advantage: a foot in the door.  

Simpkins isn’t sure of the exact number, but he says a significant percentage of Co-op Marketing Program employers end up hiring their work-term students after they graduate.

“The one thing about Co-op is that you eliminate a lot of your hiring risk because you already know the person and they know you,” he says.

What’s more, once Co-op graduates are hired and begin moving up the corporate ladder, they end up recruiting the next generation of Concordians.

“You walk into Beiersdorf and it's like walking into a JMSB alumni meeting,” says Simpkins. “You've got three or four levels of management staffed by Co-op marketing graduates.”

Find out more about Concordia’s
Marketing Co-op Program.


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