Co-op a Great Way to Get a Taste of the Workforce

By University of Calgary Modified on March 25, 2019

Co-op opportunities are one of the many exciting ways UCalgary students can incorporate experiential learning into their degree.

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Co-op opportunities are one of the many exciting ways University of Calgary students can incorporate experiential learning into their degree.

International relations major Nikki Barraza, mechanical engineering major George Shang, and commerce major Alicia Deibert all completed a co-op or internship. They gained some amazing experience with the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations, Canada Revenue Agency, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Canadian Natural Resources and UCalgary’s Office of Sustainability.

“I learned right away that many of the skills and techniques I use during my coursework such as self-learning and self-motivation are an everyday component of being in the work-force,” said Barraza.

More important are the soft skills you pick up on from being in workplace setting, added Shang.

“In school you learn a lot about the technical aspect, like what you should do in a specific situation or how to use software X. In an office setting, you learn a lot about the social aspects of the working culture—when to speak to who, what to say in meetings, how to best optimize presentations, things you don’t really learn in school,” he said. “That aspect of the co-op prepares you for any future job experience, and I think that is a really good soft-skill that you can’t gain anywhere else.”

You also learn how to think on your feet and be flexible.

I think the biggest thing has been being comfortable with uncertainty. In school it’s very easy to know your schedule, how much work you have to do in any given week and what you are supposed to be doing,” Deibert said.“In the workforce, even day-to-day tasks aren't necessarily well laid out, and I've had to learn to figure things out on my own and ask questions when I'm stuck.”

All three students recommend taking a co-op because it gives you an edge compared to other candidates in the job market, builds your professional network and portfolio, and helps you decide where you fit into the working world.

UCalgary Career Services helps connect current students with potential employers, and regularly hosts events such as boot camps, career fairs and information sessions. Graduates of the University of Calgary go on to have successful careers with a 91 per cent employment rate.