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October 24, 2002 Co-op students accrue experience before earning diploma



by Julie Parkins

When Petra Alves graduates from the John Molson School of Business with a degree in marketing, she will have a major leg up on her classmates. She already has industry-related work experience, gained through her experience with the Institute for Co-operative Education (ICE).

“With each work term, you have a chance to actually apply your theoretical knowledge, which is so motivating. When you’ve done co-op, you’re much more realistic when you leave school – you already know what the real world is like,” Alves said. She worked in everything from group insurance to event planning in her last work term with a small life insurance company in Montreal.

Now she is completing her second work term at Concordia, helping ICE communications coordinator Sharon Bishin profile other co-op students for future marketing projects.

Including Alves, Concordia employed 17 co-op students last semester in a variety of fields, from chemistry and electrical engineering to studio arts. It’s a smart use of resources, says Bishin.

“These are strong, motivated students and they are great for filling specific staffing and work project needs. They learn from me, and in the process of teaching them, my skills are sharpened. On top of that, we like to encourage our own; we don’t like them all to go to the outside. ”

Concordia’s Co-op Institute was founded more than 20 years ago, and has admitted more than 1,000 students in the past three years alone. The program is offered in 21 disciplines, and many participants are bilingual, if not multilingual.

“The co-op program gives us a good idea of an employee’s worth,” said John Szabo, an economist with the Manufacturing Industries Branch of Industry Canada. “When you work with someone full-time, you have a chance to understand their work habits, as opposed to relying on a résumé for information.”

Students are also convinced of the value of the program. “I joined Co-op because in such a competitive profession as business, experience is the most valuable thing you can have,” said marketing student Kimberley Kwo, who completed her last work term with the Aldo Group, working for a former Co-op student, Nancy Beaudoin.

“Success in business cannot be attained by memorizing textbooks,” Kwo said.
“Everything is so fast-paced and the market changes every day. I knew that if I were to graduate with 16 months of experience in marketing in at least two different companies, I would have a definite advantage over my peers and have first pick of the best jobs.”

When human resources management student Niki Soilis graduates this December, she’s going on vacation.

She’s able to relax, because she knows she already has good experience behind her and she’s been earning money all the way through school.

Soilis said, “I know I will get to where I want, because I know that I will already be starting in the work force at a higher level than I would have otherwise.”

For more information on Concordia University’s Insititute for Co-operative Education call 848-3950, send an e-mail to sharon.bishin@concordia.ca, fax: 848-2811, consult the Web site at http://www.co-op.concordia.ca, or drop by 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd. West, Suite 210.