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Here's how co-operative education can help your business grow

How the co-operative education program at Waterloo's post secondary institutions can help your business grow.

In a world where talent is at a premium, companies from all industries – automotive, manufacturing and technology alike – are struggling to develop effective talent pipelines. Everyone is looking for the same thing: access to highly educated and work-ready talent that can make an immediate impact.

Building this pipeline is exactly why co-operative education exists.

How can co-operative education help your business grow? This blog post covers all of the key questions you might have about co-operative education, including what it is, who can use it, the types of talent available and associated costs.

What is co-operative education?

Co-operative education (also known as “co-op”) is the combination of academic studies with work experience. This type of program serves two needs: students need real-world experience and companies need access to top talent. Post-secondary institutions – like the University of Waterloo or Conestoga College – work directly with employers to address their specific talent needs. The term length depends on the institution and program, but the standard term length is four to eight months. Companies can hire the same student for multiple terms, if they choose.

Who offers co-op programs?

All three post-secondary institutions in Waterloo offer co-op programs. The University of Waterloo is home to the world’s largest co-op program, with 21,000+ students from 120+ programs, working with 7,000+ employers. Wilfrid Laurier University can claim Canada’s largest business-specific co-op program and they offer co-op programs across faculties in 40+ different programs. Conestoga College, a polytechnic institution with accredited university degrees in engineering, offers co-op programs in 60+ programs including engineering, architecture and business.

Which companies are already using co-op programs?

Some of the world’s biggest companies are using Waterloo-based co-op programs to build their talent pipeline, including Amazon, Barclays, General Motors, Morgan Stanley, Disney and Microsoft. In Waterloo, companies like Toyota, Google, North, Deep Trekker and Vidyard use co-op programs, as do the many local tech startup companies.

What kind of talent can I hire?

Co-op programs from Waterloo-based institutions fit almost any type of role, including computer programmers and software developers, engineers, business and financial analysts, manufacturing and food processing specialists and more. Each post-secondary institution has its own strengths and program listings, but co-op students are available to work in just about every job function you can imagine.

What type of workplace is ideal for a co-op student?

The skills co-op students have acquired throughout their time in post-secondary education can transfer to a number of jobs in a variety of industries. From manufacturing facilities to design studios, co-op students are adaptable and ready to take on the challenges your company faces. Many of the innovation labs in Waterloo depend heavily on the expertise, energy and education of co-op students.

Why should I use co-op programs?

There are many reasons companies choose to take part in co-op programs. Hiring can be done year round to fit your company’s needs and the per term employment means limited risk if the employee is not fit for the company. Apart from being a cost competitive and low risk way to add to your workforce, companies often find the following benefits:

  • Access to exceptional talent before it reaches an open job market
  • Opportunities to build relationships with potential future employees, increasing your chances of recruiting them after graduation. In fact, participating in co-op has become a key recruitment tactic for companies looking to attract top talent in hard-to-hire positions
  • Adding a fresh perspective to the team that leverages the most up-to-date teaching on the subject and the experience of working in multiple other companies in the recent past

How much does a co-op student cost?

Employers pay a competitive wage based on the students’ program and level of experience. As a result, co-op students are often a low-cost option. The Ontario Co-operative Education Tax Credit makes hiring co-op students even more attractive for businesses located in Ontario, allowing employers to claim 25% of eligible expenditures on salaries and wages (30% for small businesses).

How do I learn more?

Each of the three post-secondary institutions in Waterloo provide resources to companies that are interested in hiring co-op students:

Waterloo is a perfect place to grow your business while taking advantage of the unique opportunity that co-operative education provides.

Want to learn more?