By: Delia Loveless

Between artificial intelligence, automation, hybrid or remote work, and the downsizing of office spaces, the way we work over the past two years has rapidly changed.

While experts had long predicted these changes, the COVID-19 global pandemic forced the world to accelerate and adapt to these shifts sooner than expected.

As you enter this new year, you may be considering what talent you’ll need to support your organizations for the year ahead. Co-operative education is one of the best and most economical ways organizations can prepare for success.

Although co-op can be an excellent way to engage with talent, not all organizations recognize the immediate or long-term benefits of bringing students into their workforce. Here are six benefits of hiring a co-op student:

1. Co-op reduces hiring risk

While co-op terms typically last 12 – 16 weeks, employers can rehire students for future terms or hire them permanently after graduation. The short-term commitment of the co-op work term enables employers to train students, evaluate specific skills and identify any additional talent they might need for the future.

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2. Co-op attracts emerging talent to the community

According to William Mazhar, an Environmental Engineering co-op student who worked for the County of Bruce and the Region of Peel, "students are willing to travel for the right opportunity."

For Mazhar, that meant relocating to Southampton for his winter work term with the County of Bruce. "There were a lot of opportunities to grow and learn new things, which is why I accepted the position even though it's a little far from home and even from Waterloo."

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3. Co-op is an affordable way to hire and invest back into your organization

Organizations that participated in hiring co-op students from the University of Waterloo saw an average return of $2 for every $1 invested in co-op talent.

With current Government of Canada funding, organizations can cover up to 75% of a student's salary. Paired with additional tax credits and grants, co-op is a cost-effective way of getting projects started and completed.

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4. Co-op students bring a fresh and diverse perspective

Coming from a learning environment, co-op students can help find innovative solutions to existing problems. In the workplace, they bring technical knowledge and a fresh perspective.

Students also come from diverse backgrounds, with many having lived and worked around the world. Their lived experience offers insights and perspectives that can bring different cultural points of view, which can be critical for organizations that want to diversify their thinking.

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5. Co-op students have hybrid skills

The next generation of talent is the first generation to grow up embedded in technology since birth. But, to succeed, today's talent must bring both human-centred and technical skills to the workplace.

Co-op students learn soft skills through their combined academic and work experience. They also offer strong communications skills, critical thinking and adaptability. They're technologically savvy and provide relevant perspectives to current trends and cultural events, which can help organizations grow their brands.

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6. Co-op students are a fit for nearly every department

At the University of Waterloo, more than 120 programs from across six faculties offer co-op components. So, whether you're looking for support in human resources, environmental and city planning, accounting or marketing, there are students and programs with the qualifications and experience to work in nearly every department.

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