By: Krista Henry (she/her)
How Waterloo co-op students play a vital role in supporting sustainability
Committed to making water, energy and communities sustainable, GHD uses top engineering talent from Waterloo to help address environmental challenges.
A global multidisciplinary consulting firm, GHD applies technology and engineering techniques across several industries including transportation, water management, land development, energy, sustainability and digital spaces. At the firm’s Waterloo office, co-op students tackle current infrastructure challenges including water and wastewater issues.
“Our team works on issues related to protecting the environment in the water sector,” says Christopher Everest (he/him), senior wastewater engineer and team lead with GHD’s water group.
“Our co-op students engage with private sector clients to ensure compliance with direct discharges to the environment. Also, publicly-owned facilities like sewers and wastewater infrastructure.”
Students work in roles such as water group engineering assistants, hydrogeology or geochemistry interns, environmental engineering interns, location intelligence interns, student ecologists and more.
GHD recruits co-op students from programs such as Environmental Engineering, Architectural Engineering, Mechatronic Engineering, Environmental Science, Geomatics, Geochemistry and Civil Engineering.
“Waterloo has a high caliber of co-op student talent,” says Everest (BASc ‘10). “They are candidates from strong programs who are capable, well-educated, self-starter types. This is what we want in our organization.”
A former Waterloo student himself, Everest started his career at GHD as a co-op student. Upon graduating, he entered into a full-time role and worked his way up at the firm. He has experienced first hand the benefits of hiring emerging talent like Waterloo co-op students.
Students are very keen to learn new things, to get engaged at GHD where they have a voice. They are willing to share their opinions and ask questions. They are very passionate about the work we do and how it addresses environmental challenges. We’re seeing Waterloo students spearhead initiatives on their own, right-out of school. Their motivation and enthusiasm continually impresses us.
- CHRISTOPHER EVEREST, senior wastewater engineer and team lead with GHD’s water group
Working on projects with an impact
A Waterloo co-op student who continues to impress the GHD team is Allison Harris. The Environmental Engineering student has worked with the firm for three terms.
She spent two terms working in GHD's Waterloo office in water and wastewater treatment and another work term in the firm's Vancouver location.
“In water and wastewater treatment, I helped with technical calculations and project management tasks,” says Harris (she/her).
“More recently, I helped with sanitary trunk sewer upgrade projects that run along major roads in British Columbia (BC). I have been fortunate enough to take part in a project co-ordinator role for an annual water and wastewater system inspections project for BC’s First Nation communities.”
Harris has also supported projects involving transportation decarbonization and renewable energy. Her passion stems from working on different projects and learning new insights into various environmental engineering disciplines during her time at GHD.
Currently, students in the water group at GHD work on several municipal projects to make systems more resilient to climate change. According to Everest, GHD encourages every student to explore different areas of their business.
“There’s interesting work we’re plugging students into from a design perspective. And, we're getting them to support the latter phases of design transition into construction,” says Everest. “We want our students involved in the various stages to see what a future career with GHD may be like.”
To help develop their student talent, GHD has a young professional group that helps to develop and organize programs specifically for students. The programs include organizing group social outings, connecting with leaders and ensuring outstanding work term experiences.
“We want our students engaged. We pull them into meetings where even if they can’t contribute right away, they get the exposure. We also include them in the business development side of what we do,” says Everest.
Communication is the most important skill the organization looks for in students when recruiting and when helping students to thrive and develop. GHD finds that co-op students are an effective way to test and try out talent who they may one day bring into the organization on a full-time basis.
“Students inject so much energy, enthusiasm and fresh perspectives, it’s a win-win all around,” says Everest.