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young man posed in front of tankAbdur Rahim, a fourth-year student of industrial engineering with a minor in business administration, is currently working a co-op position at General Dynamics Land Systems Canada.

Co-op experience helping create highly employable graduates

Students participating in UWindsor’s co-operative education programs combine their academic education with full-time paid work experience, putting them ahead of the pack when they apply for work after graduation.

“We are always impressed with the calibre of students we work with, and the exciting projects and organizations they are exposed to,” says Mitch Fields, executive director of Co-op, Career and Employment Services.

Co-op placements managed by the Co-op, Career and Employment Services office normally run for one academic term, but some can last up to three additional terms. Currently, four faculties participate in co-op: engineering, human kinetics, science and the Odette School of Business.

Statistics from the most recent Council of Ontario Universities Graduate Survey show that those who completed co-op positions end up with better paid positions in their areas of study, sooner after graduation, than their fellow graduates. The survey looked at alumni at two intervals: six months and two years following graduation.

“Our co-op students are graduating with valuable work experiences,” Dr. Fields says, “and are well-positioned to take advantage of the available job market as soon as they graduate.”

Abdur Rahim, a fourth-year student of industrial engineering with a minor in business administration, is currently working a co-op position at General Dynamics Land Systems Canada.

“It’s a fantastic experience where I get to see all areas of engineering at work, starting at the design and planning stage, to monitoring and control, to various stages of manufacture until the rolling out of the final product,” says Rahim. “Co-op exceeded my expectations and I think it will give me an edge when searching for work after graduation.”

In the 2015 calendar year, 466 UWindsor students spent one or more academic terms at work in a co-op placement with companies in Windsor-Essex County, elsewhere in Canada, in the United States or Europe.

Physics major Collin Tiessen’s co-op position took him to Pasadena, California, to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, an arm of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In the fall of 2015, he graduated with his bachelor of science degree.

On the job, Tiessen worked on refurbishing an electron energy loss spectrometer. He says he had the opportunity to learn invaluable skills that will make him marketable in his job search.

“I learned how to use an incredibly useful program called LabVIEW that controls various pieces of hardware on experiments,” says Tiessen. “I also got a chance to build on my schematic drawing skills, and the ability to draft, design and communicate schematic drawings is an incredibly marketable skill for any job that requires fabrication of parts.”

He says living in California was a bonus and he spent his weekends travelling, mountain climbing and skydiving.

Fields says universities are becoming more aware of the real need to produce graduates with job skills that are attractive to employers.

“Through a number of initiatives,” he says, “our goal is to produce graduates who are marketable in the real world, and can make an easy transition from academia to employment.”

Fields is currently in the process of expanding co-operative education into more disciplines. For more information, visit the Co-operative Education program website.