Work-Integrated Learning

Work-Integrated Learning

< Back to Articles | Topics: Working for you | Contributors: Brittany Warren (Communications and Engagement Specialist, Dalhousie University) | Published: July 6, 2022

In 2017, Xiyu Zhou moved to Halifax from Changsha, China. Despite being a significant change from the big city she was used to, she now calls Halifax her second home.

Zhou came here to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce Co-op degree at Dalhousie University, initially drawn by Canada’s reputation for being welcoming. “I’ve always been interested in doing business, and one of the reasons I picked Dal was the co-op program,” she says. “I knew a program that included work terms would give me more experiences and opportunities to network.”

The program includes three mandatory four-month co-ops. Zhou completed two co-ops with Halifax Chamber of Commerce member TEAM Work Cooperative (TWC), a Nova Scotia Works Employment Services Centre that helps connect people to jobs by supporting and empowering Nova Scotians. “My first co-op was as Project Coordinator in winter 2019, liaising between internal staff,” Zhou explains. “For my third co-op in summer 2020, I was an Information Resource Specialist.”

Daniel Riley, Client Service Coordinator at TWC, says that supervising co-op students is an opportunity to see somebody grow and carve out a potential career path. “Xiyu made herself available for new tasks and if she needed help, she asked questions,” he says. “That’s what you hope to see in a student employee.”

After she graduated in May 2021, Zhou maintained her relationships at TWC. When she was about to start her post-grad job search, TWC posted an open position. She reached out and landed an interview, which led to securing the position as Employment Support Practitioner.

“I was hired in August, and at the end of October they told me there was another opportunity on the team, Assistant to the Financial Controller,” Zhou says. “They asked me if I was interested because of my finance major. I was excited to move into this new position to apply the learning from my degree. I can see my career path ahead of me.”

Jeanette Paynter is the Financial Controller at TWC and Xiyu’s current supervisor. “We hired Zhou in this role because we knew her work ethic, her enthusiasm, and her willingness to learn, and because of her background and interest in finance,” she says.

Robert Wooden is Director of Dalhousie’s Management Career Services and a member of the Chamber’s Accessing a Skilled Workforce Task Force. Pillars of the Task Force include promoting and encouraging immigration, entrepreneurship training, and youth retention through work-integrated learning.

“Hiring a co-op student is like pre-screening candidates for a future position. You can reduce recruitment and onboarding timelines for full-time positions by considering candidates who have already completed a work term with your organization,” says Wooden. “We know employers that don’t hire co-op students sometimes struggle with recruitment, as they aren’t as well known by co-op students. Hiring students is one way to increase employer brand recognition.”

Students and new grads, whether from Canada or from abroad, have a lot to offer Nova Scotia businesses. “For any forward-thinking business, it’s essential to embrace new ideas. The problems businesses face rarely change over time. The key is finding new solutions,” says Riley. “Students bring creativity and new ideas, and also help diversify the organization, which is also important for making your business reflect the community it serves.”

“Retaining international students like Xiyu in Nova Scotia after graduation is crucial for our city’s and province’s growth,” adds Wooden. “It directly links to several points in the Chamber’s Strategic Plan. Businesses: if you want to learn more about recruiting students and recent graduates, connect with local post-secondary institutions to recruit student talent directly.”

< Back to Articles | Topics: Working for you

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