Co-op student embraces work terms in the North

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

by Jacqueline Gergal.

Co-op students who consider travelling for their work terms often picture themselves in a warm and sunny location. That wasn’t the case for University of Waterloo Biology alumnus Andrew Vermeer (BSc ’12), who decided to venture up to Nunavut’s Baffin Island. Nunavut's Baffin Island

“I never travelled much before co-op,” says Vermeer. “What surprised me about working up in Baffin Island was how isolated the mine site was. We were in a very remote location where I saw a lot of wildlife, including a polar bear and cubs.”

In 2010, Vermeer was hired as an environmental technician at Baffinland, a Canadian mining company based out of Toronto, Ontario at the time. His responsibilities included conducting freshwater monitoring programs in local lakes and streams, collecting water samples for onsite water treatment systems and inspecting fuel and waste management facilities. His work, along with others, ensured Baffinland remained in compliance with its multiple permits and applicable regulations.

He returned for a second co-op term with the company in 2011. With more experience, Vermeer became a senior environmental technician and led additional freshwater monitoring programs near the Project on Baffin Island.

Vermeer completed his degree with his last academic semester in the winter of 2012. After travelling for a few months, he was ready to start looking for a career.

“In summer of 2013, I had graduated was looking for a full time job”, he says. “I decided to return to Baffinland because I knew there was a possibility of being hired on full time and I really enjoyed that line of work.”

Vermeer credits Waterloo’s co-op program with providing him the chance to explore new job opportunities and believes that such a rare and intriguing experience wouldn’t have been presented otherwise. He now works out of Baffinland’s corporate office in Oakville, Ontario but still returns frequently to Baffin Island for work. 

“It’s great to see that there are so many job possibilities out there for biology students where what we learn in the classroom can be applied in real world situations,” he says. “My best advice to today’s students would be to be open to different career possibilities when applying for co-op jobs, even if it means travelling and being away from your friends for the work term.”