2020 Co-operative Education Annual Report: Message from the Executive Director

Monday, March 15, 2021

A man smiling with crossed armsAs we reflect on another record-breaking year, it's impossible not to acknowledge the impact COVID-19 has had on Co-operative Education at the University of Waterloo. Practically overnight, Co-operative Education shifted our operations to ensure we could work with our students, employers, faculties, academic support units and staff to provide quality work-integrated learning experiences during this time. I'm proud to say that we also developed a number of new innovations in our programming - such as moving all co-op interviews and services to a digital landscape, introducing bulk hiring opportunities and leveraging additional funding to create more jobs. Throughout all of this rapid change, the resilience of our students, the collaboration with faculty and the unwavering support from our employers, has enabled us to grow and thrive.

As we work to adapt to an evolving work reality, one thing remains clear: co-op opportunities are still important to help students develop critical skills for a complex and unprecedented future workforce. While we remain one of the pre-eminent institutions in co-operative education, with more than 23,000 co-op students across six faculties, and 7,100 employers in over 60 countries, the current global situation has encouraged us to be more flexible and look for creative ways to solve the complex problems facing our communities.

Here is a snapshot of how UWaterloo co-op has changed since March 2020:

  • Established flexible pathways to help co-op students complete work terms under challenging new circumstances, such as increased flexibility around existing work term requirements and job offerings and increased academic and professional development course offerings.
  • Engaged faculties, academic support units, alumni and current employer about potential work opportunities, leveraging federal Student Work Placement Program (SWPP) funding.
  • Helped create 330 on-campus co-op jobs within the faculties and academic support units, plus 100 more jobs that have been pre-approved for funding to support student retention initiatives.
  • Introduced 320 co-op student jobs on campus for Spring 2020, offering students with opportunities to work as Online Learning Assistants (and Senior Online Learning Assistants) to support faculties develop and deliver new online academic courses.
  • Created the "Digital Skills Fundamentals course bundle" to equip students with the skillsets needed for a remote workforce.
  • Launched outreach campaigns to strengthen relationships with industry associations across Canada.
  • Collaborated with existing co-op employers to develop positions supporting business’ transitions to a digital marketplace.

We strive to maintain a strong commitment to student hiring and we are grateful for the response of our employers, faculties and on-campus partners. Your support has continued to enable our students to receive meaningful training and mentorship opportunities throughout each work term.

Looking ahead, co-operative education will be the key to Canada’s economic recovery, as we work to develop an adaptable and talented future workforce. In fact, it has never been easier or more affordable for employers to bring co-op student talent into their organization. Find out how you can tap into fresh and innovative talent for a fraction of the cost.

Waterloo was founded on the innovation of co-operative education over 60 years ago. Our innovative mindset and years of experience, combined with our resilient student and industry network, will be what enables our co-op program to continue to adapt and succeed within the needs and demands of the ever-changing workforce and to ensure our students are future-ready for the world of work.

Read the full 2020 Co-op Annual Report.