By: Krista Henry (she/her)

Connecting students’ passions to meaningful work opportunities furthers innovation at manufacturing company Atlantic Industries Limited (AIL).

A privately-owned bridge and infrastructure company, AIL operates across Canada providing a network of engineering offices and manufacturing plants.

Kevin Williams, engineering manager at AIL

Kevin Williams (MEnv ’14)
Engineering manager at AIL

Co-op students have played a vital role in the company’s success for more than 15 years.

“Co-op has been such a good fit for us, bringing in additional resources and furthering our network in the engineering community,” says Kevin Williams (he/him), engineering manager at AIL.

A former co-op student himself, Williams (MEnv ’14) now has the pleasure of mentoring the next generation of talent.

“Students are involved in everything from executing laboratory testing and data analysis, to writing research reports that advance standards,” says Williams. “For instance, they develop change proposals for the Canadian highway bridge design code which gets national exposure.”

Students at AIL work in roles such as designer co-op, research
co-op, engineering co-op and project co-ordinator assistant.

Contributing to success

According to Tara Ross (she/her), director of Human Resources at AIL, the organization has bought fully into the benefits of co-operative education. “We see helping co-op students fulfill their educational requirements as an opportunity for us to help shape the future leaders in the industry,” says Ross.

There's so much passion and so much talent that are within the
co-op programs and an employer shouldn’t turn a blind eye. Co-op students have brought incredible value to our organization.


Williams believes one of the benefits of working at AIL is that team members can follow their passion no matter their position at the organization. “It’s an innovative business, receptive to new ideas and it’s a good connection between research development and business,” says Williams.

When it comes to recruiting and hiring students, AIL encourages opportunities for students that are in their very first work term. The company has a strong student retention rate, with many students returning for multiple work terms.

“When I see students within our team, they're able to walk away from that experience feeling enabled and empowered in their abilities. That's really rewarding,” says Ross.

“When our co-op finishes with us, it doesn't mean it's a goodbye forever, it means we would still love to be connected. And we hope and wish you success wherever you go, even if it's not coming back to us, but we hope they do.”

Tara Ross, director of HR at AIL

Tara Ross
Director of HR at AIL

Curiosity is key

While co-op students bring many skills to the table, curiosity is an important aspect to AIL. It is something they look forward to when a co-op student enters the organization.

“As an innovative organization we want to see students who want to learn something new. They bring additional perspectives that help strengthen our organization,” says Ross.

Students lead projects from start to finish and are expected to set clear goals on each project. Williams finds that students inject a lot of energy into their work and the team members enjoy mentoring them.

“Students really jump in where they can,” says Williams. “Even though they may not have had academic exposure to aspects of higher end design and analysis, they are still able to contribute and bring a big cultural impact.”

Ross encourages any employer, regardless of the industry, to invest in co-op students for their talent strategy.