Some Ryerson students are feeling that the university isn’t doing enough to provide co-op opportunities, which will affect their chances of getting a job after graduation. Nadya Domingo reports
Ryerson students in co-operative programs are questioning if the university offers adequate employment opportunities.
Co-operative education is a program that allows students to gain work experience related to their field of study. Graduates of co-op programs receive networking opportunities, earn competitive salaries, and have added skills on their resumes.
Ryerson currently offers 10 co-op programs and the school’s co-operative education website says employers tend to choose graduates with co-op experience over graduates from regular programs.
Matthew Mina, a first-year civil engineering student, said he came to Ryerson to experience the feel of a small campus in Toronto’s downtown core. It came as a surprise to him that he would not graduate with any co-op training.
“I think this is unfair and I hope a co-op program does become available to all engineering students at Ryerson in the future,” he said.
Chemical engineering students can take co-ops, but civil engineering students are not offered the option.
The University of Waterloo is known for their co-op programs, with more than 56 per cent of their full-time undergraduate students enrolled in co-ops.
David Zhu, a first-year software engineering student at the University of Waterloo, chose the university because of their co-op programs.
“The things you learn in a classroom are nothing compared to the actual world,” he said. “By having co-op, the student would be learning everything they would learn normally in a classroom, plus the added benefit of actually experiencing how it is like to work in the field.”
Zhu said he recently sent out applications for 50 different jobs and had 1,000 listings available to him.
“Without this experience, how would [students] know if they actually chose the right career path or not until they graduate with a degree to get a job?” he said.
A software program was created at Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone called Whoplusyou that is an initiative to better connect students with employers.
“I think there will be some great things coming from that,” said Stefan Kerry, manager of the office of co-operative education.
But co-op students at Ryerson typically seek employment on their own. The co-op office encourages students to do so, although they are still available to assist those seeking help with resumes, interviews, and cover letters.
Even with these resources, other universities seem to attract more attention for their co-op programs. The University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) is often chosen by students specifically for its co-op experience. Over 40 co-op programs are offered in the sciences, arts, management and business studies. Students receive up to 12 months of paid work experience through the UTSC co-op program.
Brian Longmire, 18, said he applied to the Scarborough campus because the university was persistent in highlighting the benefits of co-op.
“It’s beautiful that they give that option, and they made that apparent from the get-go,” he said. “That was the only reason I wanted to go there.”
Ryerson does offer employment opportunities aside from co-ops. Through the Experiential Learning program, each faculty offers experiences like internships, thesis studies, and clinical placements.
Kerry said these opportunities should be recognized.
“I think that it might be overstating it that Ryerson doesn’t connect students with employers,” he said. “Ryerson is interested in adding more co-op programs for students.”