Nurturing Arts co-op students as HR professionals of tomorrow

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Three female employees sitting at a large desk with a laptop

By: Krista Henry (she/her)

Arts co-op students are helping to create change in human resource (HR) roles by promoting inclusion and belonging, developing positive business cultures and improving employer branding.

With the global pandemic changing the world of work over the last two years, HR departments felt the brunt of shifting priorities, the move to hybrid work and maintaining employee wellness.

HR workloads are expected to jump by 9.3 percent this year.

Hiring co-op students to help with plans for the future of work and to deliver inclusivity programs can help to tackle this demand.

Peel Regional Police and NavBlue are two organizations taking advantage of the fresh ideas and critical thinking skills of Arts co-op students. Psychology and Social Development student Ina Gera (she/her) wants to create change in her Mississauga community. She joined the Peel Regional Police’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Bureau as a co-op student.

“I want to see the police force make a conscious and active effort to change the way that they are currently running,” she says.

“As a South Asian woman who is younger, I can bring that perspective into this role.”

Ina Gera
Ina Gera (she/her)
Psychology and Social Development student


Bringing strong research skills

One of the major strengths Gera brings to her role is her research skills. She has helped research anti-racism policies, help develop a chief research council and reviewed global inclusion benchmarks to ensure Peel’s Regional Police are on track with global standards.

“I love this work, my boss pushes me to attend every meeting, even if she is not there, so that I can gain more knowledge,” says Gera. “I think I’ve formed valuable connections with the team and give them insights from my education, social media and my peers.”

NAVBLUE, an Airbus Services company dedicated to Flight Operations and Air Traffic Management Solutions, also finds value in the insights of co-op students. NAVBLUE has hired students as software developers, performance analysts, junior procurement assistants and in HR as talent acquisition co-ops and digital HR marketing.

“Students help us when we have an influx of projects, they assist us to really push it through to the finish line,” says Madison Wilkinson (she/her), talent management specialist at NAVBLUE. “Waterloo gives us talent right at our doorstep.”

A new outlook

Wilkinson (BA’17) is a Waterloo Arts alum in Social Development with a minor in Economics and Human Resource Management. She is a strong supporter of co-operative education and has seen the value of hiring future-ready talent.


They (co-op students) bring a new perspective, a different eye to the things that we do. They might see things that we don't. We want to know what makes them look at a social media page, or what benefits do they look at when they want to go into a company. They are also hard workers.



Madison Wilkinson (she/her)
Talent management specialist at NAVBLUE

NAVBLUE recently created a new digital HR marketing co-op role. The student in the role has already tackled several projects including developing a social media plan focused on empathy and people, starting a monthly employee spotlight program and developing a plan for revamping the company’s careers website.

“We realized our future co-op students don’t really understand what we do or what we have to offer,” says Wilkinson. “Our digital HR marketing co-op student created a one pager that talks about our mission, values and benefits. We sent this to our incoming co-op students during the interview phase and it received positive feedback in our last round of interviews.”


The co-op students in the talent acquisition co-op role at NAVBLUE have also been instrumental to the organization. During their work terms, co-op students in this role have assisted with end-to-end recruitment for both full-time employees and other co-op students.

“With new regulations coming, like one about the right to disconnect, our talent acquisition co-op student has helped us to create policies,” says Wilkinson. “They are also involved in tracking and reporting inclusion and diversity metrics.”

According to Wilkinson, co-op students are important to the HR function in organizations. She sees them providing value for post-COVID hybrid work planning, learning and development initiatives, as well as talent management.