CEE and WI collaborate to support co-op students

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

CEE and WI collaborate to support co-op students

Waterloo International (WI) has allocated $20,000 to support co-op students. This is the result of a collaboration with Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE), who identified a need to provide additional resources to international students.

“Traditionally, our international co-op students have a great track record of finding employment,” says Norah McRae, associate provost of CEE. “The pandemic has added challenges and barriers that we’re committed to helping them overcome.”

One of those challenges is finding employment with international organizations. To limit the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Canada advises to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice. In alignment with this advisory, Waterloo has suspended all University-related travel outside of Canada, including co-op work terms. This means that any international employer can only post job opportunities that allow a student to work from within Canada.

And although jobs are still being posted, many employers are also facing funding cuts, and some of these jobs are unable to offer a competitive salary. This impacts international students, who have limited access to Canadian government financial aid packages.

“Shifting priorities, internal and external pressures, and competition for scarce resources have created many challenges for our international students. Collaboration across campus is critical at this time to ensure that all students have access to support and resources. Waterloo International is pleased to offer this assistance to provide meaningful employment for our international co-op students,” says Christine McWebb, assistant vice president, International Operations, Waterloo International.

This money will be split evenly among 20 positions with the business units within the Aga Khan Foundation Network in Pakistan as $1,000 scholarships. The positions are diverse, ranging in focus from research, communications, public health, nursing, and climate. The funding aims to provide financial options for international students, but any student who wishes to accept one of these roles would qualify for the scholarship.

“These funds are meant to assist international co-op students, who wish to take advantage of these unique opportunities, but still need an income of some kind,” says McWebb.

Farzana Karim-Haji, director of university partnerships at Aga Khan University, says universities around the world will have to adapt to a ‘new normal’ regarding student mobility and work-integrated learning. “In this spirit, the Aga Khan University’s new Virtual Internship Programme has been developed to engage with students in innovative and meaningful ways by providing virtual experiences, which will allow students to contribute their knowledge, build their skills and navigate their careers through these uncertain times,” says Karim-Haji.

McRae says students have shown remarkable resilience and adaptability during the pandemic. “Waterloo students want to work, and they are still actively looking for employment. We have increased the flexibility of our program for the spring term, creating flexible pathways that take pressure off their upcoming co-op work terms,” she says. “With the generous support of Waterloo International, and collaboration with our international partners, we can continue to offer resources that can help students in this challenging time.”