1,800 job-market-ready experiential learners
It was a big year for Concordia’s Institute for Co-operative Education. More than 1,800 Co-op students set off for work terms with hundreds of employers across 40 different undergraduate and graduate programs.
May 25 marked the annual Co-op Awards of Recognition Event (CARE), a celebration of students who go above and beyond the classroom by making meaningful strides in the workplace.
The event also honours committed employers who provide invaluable mentorship through high-quality work terms. More than $10,000 in awards and scholarships were handed out at this year’s ceremony.
“Co-op is all about nurturing the next generation of leaders. As I look into the audience, I see the faces of tomorrow,” said Claude Martel, the institute’s new director, who recently took the helm after Gerry Hughes retired in December.
Martel went on to thank the dedicated students, employers and staff who were critical to the success of the institute this year, and ended by promising big changes ahead.
“We are the future of education. In the next few years the institute will grow massively — you can expect to see us expand in many directions.”
Students on the move
Attendees of the evening event were greeted by the Co-op Showcase, which featured 26 of the program’s top students. They stood beside posters bearing details about their work terms and eagerly discussed what they gained from their various on-the-job experiences with guests.
Cédric Chamberland just finished his BSc in Actuarial Mathematics and Finance at Concordia. He spent his last Co-op work term in New York City, where he worked as an actuarial advisor for Ernst & Young, one of the “big four” accounting firms.
Chamberland said the experience allowed him to close the gap between learning in the classroom and on the job.
“They gave me a job offer when I left and I accepted it because I loved my time there.”
Anthropology student Andrew Fitzsimmons spent his three work terms with Parks Canada. He focused primarily on developing traditional Inuit knowledge presentations for a southern audience.
“My Co-op experience took me to Nunavut and Greenland and to Students on Ice, an amazing arctic expedition,” he says.
Next, Fitzsimmons is off to the West Coast to pursue a master’s degree in cultural anthropology at the University of Victoria.
“The opportunity to travel and see the north has led to amazing job opportunities and continuing research projects, and it’s all because of the experience I gained on the ground.”
Marketing student Oumou Keita’s Co-op experience also took her on an adventure. The marketing student completed internships in Ottawa, the Netherlands and Mali. During her last work term, she worked with the SEME group in Bamako, where she was assistant to the director.
“I grew as a person through these work terms and learned to become independent and identify the things I want and don't want in a career,” said Keita, who will spend her summer taking a well-deserved break.
“It was a great way to understand my skills, where I excel and what my focus should be. Plus, I built a great network in Montreal and around the globe.”
‘Our mandate for the future is to grow smartly’
Nadia Bhuiyan, the new vice-provost of Partnerships and Experiential Learning, underlined the key role Co-op’s experiential learning opportunities play in Concordia’s strategic directions.
“We’re encouraged to get our hands dirty by using rich experiences outside the classroom to deepen learning and affect change,” she said.
“Our mandate for the future is simple. It’s to grow smartly and offer a wider variety of impactful and compelling opportunities to more students in more disciplines. We will strive to develop the next generation of highly skilled workers so they can meet the needs of a highly complex and rapidly evolving workplace.”
‘We learn as much from them as they do from us’
Co-op employer Dan Burns, senior director of product integrity at Bombardier Aerospace, said that the vigour, inquisitiveness and drive of students who come to his company have been key to its ability to move forward.
One of those students is industrial engineering undergrad Amelie Carrier Lessard. Winner of this year’s Alexandre Quintal Co-op Student of the Year Award, she completed internships with Bombardier Aerospace and L’Oréal Canada.
“What I’ve really enjoyed is the support you receive from the institute’s employees, who help you while also maintaining great partnerships with employers,” she told the CARE audience.
"I chose industrial engineering at Concordia specifically because of Co-op. It gave me the chance to keep one foot in the job market."
During her work terms, Carrier Lessard said, she was excited to be able to apply the industrial-engineering knowledge she had recently gained in the classroom. "At the same time, I was able to mentor other students. Co-op was the right choice for me.”
Student journalist Meagan Boisse is a member of the Institute for Co-operative Education. Find out more about Co-op at Concordia.