Kayla Cotton
Kayla Cotton, PR & Event Intern

Cooperative education enables personal and professional growth

A university degree is no longer solely earned after four years of lectures and exams. Students now have the opportunity to gain valuable life lessons relating to business culture and confidence outside the classroom.

Several academic institutions in Nova Scotia offer programs similar to Mount Saint Vincent University’s Co-Operative Education program, which allows undergraduate students like myself the opportunity to work for a business or organization in their chosen field and finish their degree with a year of applicable experience. In 2014, 80 per cent of co-op graduates at MSVU secured employment in their field of study in just six months after graduation. This means that students are relieved of the stress that comes from the dreaded job-hunt after the completion of their studies.

I’m in my final year of the Bachelor of Public Relations degree at MSVU, and currently undergoing my third four-month work term with the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. Before my first day, my friends and family wished me luck and cautioned that the first day in a new position was the most difficult. I’ve found this to be normally true. However I’ll admit that not once did I feel nervous or intimidated during my first few days at the office. I felt confident and eager to learn, not only because of the warm and welcoming team, but also because of the experience I’ve gained during my past two work terms. I’m not alone with this feeling, at MSVU more than a remarkable 90 per cent of recent co-op grad felt prepared for the workforce after completing their co-op work terms.

MSVU gives students the opportunity to conduct their own job search, while the university also has strong relationships with many employers in government, non-profit and private sectors. Thus students gain insight to other career options that they may have not yet realized.

There’s many reasons why it’s advantageous for employers like the Chamber of Commerce to participate in the co-op program. Firstly, by gaining access to an educated and highly motivated labor pool for a short period, they are provided with the perfect solution for completing projects or filling temporary workplace niches.

Additionally, the co-op labour pool is inexpensive for the employer as they are reimbursed up to half of the minimum $15 hourly wage that students earn. This resource, while limited to each four month work period, can be continually renewed every semester with each new class of students and builds a strong, mutually beneficial relationship between the academic institution and participating business or organization.

The Halifax Chamber of Commerce is committed to the growth and support of business culture. This is achieved by many initiatives including matching postsecondary student development to employer needs. By hiring co-op students, employers are guaranteed to grow their team with skilled and enthusiastic young adults with innovative ideas. Resulting in a stronger workforce and a positive business environment.

When I graduate and start applying for full-time positions, I’ll have a year of practical, real-world job experience that employers look at first and an edge over other students who lack this experience. My time at university has already taught me a lot more than I bargained for, and at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce it’s a new opportunity each day with networking events and communications responsibilities. I’m thankful that the co-op program exists for me to grow personally and professionally