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Co-op Program at the University of Waterloo

The University of Waterloo's has a co-op program, whereby students earn an average of $37,000 to $77,000 over the course of their education

Photo of Melanie McDougall
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"Waterloo is a university you may never have heard of, but if you talk to anyone in Silicon Valley they’ll probably tell you the university is a source of some of the best employees and entrepreneurs. The president of Y Combinator, one of the most influential backers of new tech companies, traces the roots of eight successful startups to Waterloo.

Waterloo operates the largest co-op education program in the world, meaning almost half of its 30,000 students alternate between four-month periods on campus and in the workplace. Because of co-ops, Waterloo students are accustomed to toggling between long stretches in the classroom and the work world while constantly refining and reflecting on what they learned in both places." - Washington Post 

The University of Waterloo's co-operative program offers a sustainable method for students to pay for their education. Not only do students earn an average of $37,000 to $77,000 over the course of their education, but graduates from the co-operative program have relevant work-experiences that will increase their chances of finding employment after graduation and repaying their student loans. 

References:

University of Waterloo - Co-operative Education

https://uwaterloo.ca/co-operative-education/about-co-operative-education

University of Waterloo - Paying for your education

https://uwaterloo.ca/find-out-more/financing/paying

Article from the Washington Post: 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/09/23/when-students-have-choices-among-top-colleges-which-one-do-they-choose/


What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

We should re-imagine the divide between work and education. How can the two be better integrated so that individuals can gain the skills that they need in order to contribute to the working world.

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Photo of Caitlin Sikora

Well said, Melanie! As I've been noticing this divide in my interviews, I've been thinking that there seems to be a schism in the goals between the universities and their students:

1. Universities (in an oversimplification) want to create and propagate knowledge
2. Students by and large, want to obtain skills as well as qualifications to enable financially stable careers

Perhaps increasing communication across the divide between students and universities could help reduce the divide between work and education.

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Photo of Melanie McDougall

Hey Caitlin, 

That's an interesting idea.  I think the distinction between knowledge and skill acquisition is a bit more complex however. 

1. Knowledge should be transferring to skills within society, even if this does not seem apparent at first (not necessarily only through the workplace, but through any kind of interaction with society and the world that we live in). 
2. Obtaining skills is a form of knowledge acquisition. 

I think one of the issues is that students may not be aware of some of the skills they will need in the workplace. For example lots of soft skills are necessary to really excel in my workplaces. 

However, I do agree that universities are not necessarily taking a human-centered design approach when thinking of which knowledge they are providing to their students. 

I agree that  increasing  communication with students, alumni and workplaces to figure out what skills and knowledge is most needed schools could increase their effectiveness in preparing students for the workplace. 

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