By: Christine Nhan
In fall 2011, Nahanni Steel Products hired their first Waterloo co-op student. Right away, they saw that co-op students would be intergral to their company’s future development.
“Waterloo has been part of our business plan for years now,” says Darrin Wiegard, a plant engineer at Nahanni. “Our company size is around 70 associates, yet we have hired 135 co-op students in the last five years.
Lauren Hummel, a fourth-year biology student, completed her first work term with Nahanni. In her role as a production worker, she worked in quality control ensuring the integrity of products. At first, she wasn’t sure if she had the skills to tackle the job.
“Being out of my element and having a lack of background knowledge in mechanical engineering made my entire experience at Nahanni a great challenge,” admits Hummel.
But the mentorship provided by her supervisor and colleagues helped her succeed. “Nahanni fosters an environment designed for students to learn and build their skills,” she says. “Everyone at the company was extremely eager to help out if I had questions, which made learning the job much easier.”
Hummel was surprised to discover that the skills she learned in an industrial environment would be so relevant to her future work. She says this experience prepared her for her next work term at Princess Margaret Hospital.
“Nahanni taught me how to adapt to unfamiliar situations and work in environments I never expected to be in,” Hummel says. “During my second co-op work term in a cancer research laboratory, I was already comfortable with being uncomfortable in a fast-paced environment.”
Wiegard says Waterloo co-op students like Lauren are an asset to his team. He says that students from all years perform exceptionally well, but he loves to see what a student in their first work term can accomplish. “It’s rewarding to see junior students surpass the goals we set for them, and do so with a successful combination of enthusiasm, commitment and passion,” says Weigard.