Imagine working a job in a field you love while earning university credit and making a paycheque.
It may sound like a fantasy, but in the University of New Brunswick Saint John’s accredited business co-op program, that’s just another day.
Cole Fowler gained experience with three different jobs while studying business at UNBSJ – from a local information technology company, to a semi-professional hockey team.
“I think this is the biggest opportunity for any student and if they don’t take it they’re missing out on a huge aspect of educational and employment opportunities,” Fowler said.
UNBSJ’s business co-op program offers students the chance to work in the job market and put their education to good use. Fowler said the opportunity to apply his skills in the workplace strengthened his understanding of the topics.
“You can see different course materials applied during a placement,” he said.
Students can enter the program after their first year of schooling if they meet the admission requirements. The program kicks off with three days of mandatory professional development, according to Erin Gillespie, the coordinator of experiential learning for the faculty of business at UNBSJ.
“They take part in sessions to help prepare them for their first co-op job competition and work term like how to write a resume, how to do a cover letter, interview skills, work management, things like that,” Gillespie said.
Students continue to take part in professional development as they progress through the program. The topics evolve to meet their needs at different points of their career.
Job postings open up in October and students can begin applying for the positions they want, complete with interviews. A business student’s first co-op work term typically runs from January to May of their second year, before they return for an academic term in the summer.
Students do three co-op placements throughout their degree. The co-op program can be completed in four years, although some students may choose to spread out their schedules, Gillespie said.
As for who employs the students, the businesses come in all shapes and sizes, including accounting firms, J.D. Irving, the Saint John Sea Dogs, local start-ups and more. Students may work specifically in accounting positions or join the company’s marketing or human resources departments.
“It’s a really wide range,” Gillespie said.
Coming back for an academic term following a work placement, Gillespie said there’s a visible difference in how students participate.
“If they’ve had real world work experience in that area they’re able to contribute to class conversations and take part in case studies. They just have more awareness of what they’re learning in the classroom and how it is applied in the real world,” Gillespie said.
Fowler said the experience works both ways.
“You learn this material and then you get to apply it for four months.”
The program allowed Fowler to put his knowledge to good use while working in a real workplace. Above all, the connections made while he was working have continued to open doors.
“It opened up a lot of networks and I still have connections with former coworkers. They’ve helped me to get other jobs. They’ve been my references for further opportunities.”
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