Employing a workforce with diverse talents is a priority at an independent global design firm - and hiring University of Waterloo co-op students is a key part of their strategy.
Through community engagement and a team dedicated to mentorship as well as learning and development for staff, Arup’s Offices in Canada has distinguished itself as a standout student employer.
Arup believes that co-op students hired from different academic disciplines can benefit the organization.
“Arup is a multidisciplinary organization, we work across multiple markets, aviation, transit, energy, all aspects of the built environment,” says Arup’s Canadian group leader Craig Forrest. “The University of Waterloo covers a lot of ground. They’ve got a lot of deep programs that we can reach into, and we can cover a lot of the needs we (have), all from Waterloo.”
With an internal network of 14,000 team members in 34 countries, Arup provides engineering, design, planning, and project management services in all areas of the built environment.
Cheryl Petersen, associate principal at Arup, says the organization, which opened its Canadian branch in 2000, really values academically diverse backgrounds. She describes Arup as a multidisciplinary organization at its “core.”
“We don’t want people coming in thinking the exact same way that we do; we want people who are bringing diversity of thought and a different approach,” says Petersen.
A wide range of projects is what led Sophie Potter, a Waterloo Planning student, to complete two work terms at Arup.
“I really wanted to obtain a diverse experience in transportation because that’s where my interests lie,” says Potter. “The Toronto office is becoming one of the major rail hubs for the company, so I was really fortunate to take part in some of the rail projects happening right now.”
Potter also mentions the wide variety of backgrounds and education among their workforce. Planners, architects, and engineers all contribute to the final design of a project, which she enjoyed.
“The work environment at Arup is a perfect balance of work and play,” says Potter. “There’s a lot of young people at the office, along with a mix of senior leadership. The atmosphere is so positive and welcoming, and I never felt intimidated about asking anyone questions about anything.”
Kaushik Sarkar, a Waterloo Mechanical Engineering graduate who completed two work terms at Arup, says the company is actively trying to recruit the best talent possible.
“At Arup, what they try to do is really promote a more collaborative culture,” says Sarkar.
Arup and Waterloo
Arup has a longstanding relationship with Waterloo and hires graduates and co-op students across its North American offices. Arup participates in University events such as career fairs, while also hosting technical talks featuring their engineers.
“Arup goes to Waterloo for the right co-op students because of the quality curriculum and the quality of the interns themselves,” Petersen says. “They come from backgrounds and experiences that match our values and principles of wanting to lead as a humane organization, as well as wanting to make sure that we're shaping a better world, and that's important. Waterloo students help make Arup more future-proof and innovative, because of the unique backgrounds that they bring and different disciplines that they come from.”
Forrest says Waterloo students make a big impact on Arup. He describes an instance where a Waterloo co-op student contributed to building the organization’s MassMotion software. Through working on its redesign, the organization worked on developing better solutions for how people interact with the built environment throughout the pandemic.
“[Waterloo students] are very curious, they ask a lot of questions, they’ve got a strong inquisitive culture which fits the Arup culture as well,” adds Forrest.
Q & A with Arup executives
How do Waterloo co-op students make Arup in Canada more innovative or future-proof?
Cheryl Petersen: Waterloo students help make Arup more future-proof and innovative because of the unique backgrounds that they bring and the different disciplines that they come from. Each student brings a different diversity of thought and process and so that brings a lot to our firm.
Why does Arup come to Waterloo to hire co-op students?
Craig Forrest: [Waterloo has] a lot of deep programs that we can reach into, and we can cover a lot of the needs we want from Waterloo. We do go to other universities but the University of Waterloo (gives us) a wide coverage with regards to disciplines.
Does Arup hire from various faculties? Are interdisciplinary students hired?
Petersen: Across our different practices here in Arup we have three main focus areas: buildings, consulting, and infrastructure. Arup hires from lots of different disciplines within those three areas. That could be civil, it could be sustainability, it could be electrical and many times the students will come from different disciplines and end up being able to do different things at Arup. We've had examples in the past where a civil student ended up doing some sustainable work or a student who might have done something different in school ends up coming to Arup and bringing a whole new perspective to a structural design program.
How does Arup enable co-op students to learn and develop their skills?
Petersen: Arup’s commitment to our co-op students is coming through the development of their skills, and that development comes from programs that we have with our skills networks that each of them can join when they join the organization. They get to work (with) other engineers who maybe at one point started as an intern themselves. We have access to technical training that we give each of the students throughout the co-op program. They also are paired with a buddy when they join the organization and so that buddy helps to develop them.
What do you hope co-op students take away from their work term with Arup?
Petersen: During their time at Arup, we hope that interns will take away the valuable skills that they've learned. More importantly, I think it's about the relationships that they gain and the different diverse backgrounds and experiences that they're able to work with. We’re a global firm so they get to learn about different parts of the countries that we work with, and different types of disciplines that they might have to work with on multidisciplinary projects. It's about those relationships and the ability to collaborate and learn how to network, and most importantly, I think it's about learning how to shape a better world.
What was something a Waterloo student has done for Arup that had a significant impact?
Forrest: That's an interesting one because they're all fabulous. More recently, with the COVID virus, we have been refining our bespoke software tool called MassMotion. It helps when you design and build and operate assets. It helps to understand the flow of people and how people interact with what you've built. So rather than just doing dusty drawings and calculations, this brings it to light. And with the COVID crisis, the way that we interact with the built environment is changing. Waterloo co-ops have had a huge impact on the development of MassMotion as we have had interns joining us for almost ten years pushing the software forward, so we could be in a position to change the software to respond to the COVID crisis.
How does Arup foster intellectual, multi-disciplinary diversity?
Petersen: Arup at its core is a multidisciplinary organization, and we practice total architecture, total design. We have an environment that's conducive to sustaining that intellectual diversity, so you know we're careful about selecting the right talent. We're providing project opportunities work with team members from other disciplines so that they're seeing different perspectives. In many cases, staff sit next to someone who's not even in the same discipline that they're in to make sure that we are getting them to think differently and collaboratively and that they're always thinking from a multidisciplinary perspective. We do lunch-and-learns that (students) can participate in.
Why is it important that co-op students have diverse talents?
Forrest: To give a client the best solution you need to be bringing in multiple disciplines. We believe the best designs come from an understanding of how the built environment works and how all the bits fit together and that's, electrical, mechanical, digital but it’s also planning its economics, its finance as well. You really want the co-op students that you bring in to have deep skills in their area but an appreciation of all the other areas because if they understand how all the other areas work together, they can have respect for them and understanding, so that there are no barriers in that creative process. Barriers are only put up where people don't understand the other disciplines and having those broad skills, really it brings that creative process, removes the tension, and results in better outcomes so from an Arup point of view that's what we look for. From the students’ point of view, it just makes things a heck of a lot more interesting as well. They really get a broad understanding of where they fit in to the creative process. They understand how they contribute to and how important their position is, they also get to see other disciplines and maybe they want to take a change in career direction.