Jennifer Currie: CBU’s Co-op program making a strong comeback

Cape Breton Post | Jennifer Currie | March 30th, 2018

When I first started working at Cape Breton University, known then as UCCB, we had an impressive career services office with more than 10 staff members and hundreds of students involved in career-related work experience.

Over the years, programs change, work experience came in different options and students’ focus changed to new programs. Perhaps students wanted to finish degrees or diplomas quickly, maybe it became too costly or perhaps simply co-op was no longer the buzz word. Although co-op was always an option for students, CBU is proud to say the co-op internship program is back and back with a vengeance.

With such a spirited renewal I’m left to ponder why the revitalized program has become so popular. Is it because students are obtaining great work experience in their field of study? Is the appeal that our co-op program offers required electives in their degree program? Or is it simply the knowledge that graduates are getting hired by their co-op employers?

Maybe there is a national shift in students recognizing the value of incorporating experiential learning opportunities into their studies.

Whatever the reason, the co-op option has been a great success not only for CBU but also our local community as we are connecting employers with students to fit their needs and avenues for funding to hire students. For example the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education offers a funding incentive program for employers to hire co-op students. In May of 2015 just as CBU was kick-starting the program, approximately a dozen applications out of over 200 came from employers on Cape Breton Island. Fast forward to 2018, this number has jumped to 49 Cape Breton applications with over 40 positions that received funding.

In the last three years CBU has seen such an increased uptake in co-op it is difficult to highlight just one example.

Kelsey Quinn is having a great experience with CBU’s co-op program. Quinn is a CBU student in her third year of a BBA Accounting Major degree and has secured her second placement with New Dawn Enterprises reporting to Leonard Murray, manager of accounting services for New Dawn.

Quinn is a wonderful ambassador for CBU and shares details about her experience.

“My placement with New Dawn Enterprises taught me even though I have cerebral palsy I should not limit myself in any way while accomplishing my dream goals. It has truly been an honour to work for New Dawn Enterprises as it opened many doors for my future.”

It’s also not hard to find inspiring examples of alumni who benefited from CBU’s co-op program. Gerard McPhee, a CBU graduate from 1991 with the Business Technology – Accounting Co-op Program, is a wonderful example of what co-op can do for a student.

Just before Christmas in 1990, McPhee was enrolled in the co-op program but did not have a placement for January 1991 confirmed. He was the only student not placed for the upcoming term - he was holding out for a great local opportunity. His gamble paid off as Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA–CB), then ECBC, had an opening for one student.McPhee filled the term, starting his last co-op placement on January 2, 1991.

“My main goal at the time was to stay in Cape Breton to work and eventually raise a family. Luckily, the co-op program at CBU provided me with that opportunity.” This gamble paid off and McPhee is still employed with ACOA-CB 27 years later.

“March 19-23, 2018 is National Co-op Week and CBU will be celebrating the achievements we have to date and looking to the future. Connecting with our alumni both on and off-island is a great way to enhance our co-op offerings and to stay in touch with Alumni” states Carly Turnbull, student placement officer for Science and Arts degree programs.

In addition to practicums or internships in education, nursing, hospitality and so forth, CBU offers specific co-op programs in arts, business, community studies, public health, science and technology. CBU is working hard to enhance the educational experience for all students and the results are promising.

For more information on the business or other co-op programs at CBU, please contact the Shannon School of Business Student Placement Officer, Jennifer Currie, at 902-563-1196.

All About Business is a monthly column on challenges and opportunities for the Cape Breton business community, written by faculty and staff of the Shannon School of Business. Jennifer Currie is the student placement officer of the Shannon School of Business, Cape Breton University.