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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 8 | June 6, 2002

No Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer

Co-op programs make for a year round curriculum. by Helen Lewis

While most students head for the mountains and beaches, 543 UBC students are embarking on summer experiences of a different kind - building their future careers through co-op placements.

UBC's commitment to co-operative education began more than 15 years ago with the faculties of Applied Science and Science. The faculties of Commerce and Business Administration, Forestry and Arts have since launched their own co-op programs, matching hundreds of students with employers for work terms each year.

Co-op students spend about four to eight months working in monitored, paid positions where they apply their academic learning in a work environment. This summer, 70 arts students, 69 commerce students, 29 wood products processing students and 375 science students are completing placements in British Columbia, Canada and overseas.

Josh Homewood's first day on placement saw him taste-testing sweets and touring a chocolate factory. Homewood, a fourth-year marketing major in the Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration, is completing a three-month co-op placement as a marketing assistant intern at confectionery giant Cadbury Trebor Allan Inc. in Toronto, Ontario. He is working on the launch of new products and new strategies for existing products.

"This is going to be an amazing summer -- the experience is unparalleled," Homewood says. "It's an awesome work environment with a lot of fun people. Another great thing about the job is that I'll be able to see the product of my efforts in the near future. I'll be able to walk into London Drugs or Safeway or Walmart and say 'I worked on that!'"

Genomics is a hot field in molecular biology, and Science student Jerrod Schwartz is in the thick of it with his co-op placement at Agencourt Bioscience, Massachusetts. The fifth-year biochemistry major is spending four months as a research associate, developing novel applications for Agencourt's Solid Phase Reversible Immobilization (SPRI) technology in the genomics and proteomics industry.

"It's such a great opportunity to be able to spend the summer in a lively college town like Boston, while learning about new biochemical techniques and doing cutting-edge research at a leading genomics company," Schwartz says. "The professional contacts I've made are an incredibly valuable resource.

Whether I apply to graduate school or begin looking for full-time employment, I feel more confident now having completed co-op than I did before. Being able to travel around North America, meet new people, and experience different cultures has been an added bonus."

Fourth-year Faculty of Forestry student Jovan Larre has headed to the east coast of Australia for her final co-op work term. Larre, who is completing Wood Product Processing studies, is spending eight months working for North Eden Timber on the Sapphire Coast, New South Wales, assessing and improving the production of hardwood floors, beds and wardrobes. "Working in a different country allows me to combine work, travel and school. Where I am living is incredible -- it's right on the ocean, very hilly and beautiful," Larre says. "Although Australian culture is quite similar to Canadian, I am learning to deal with different types of people and different techniques used in manufacturing. The people are great here and I feel right at home, except for them driving on the wrong side of the road!"

As a high school student, Julia Harrison volunteered for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation's "Run For A Cure" fundraiser. Now a third-year international relations major in the Faculty of Arts, Harrison is completing her first co-op work term as a "Run For A Cure" run assistant. She is spending seven months in the foundation's Vancouver office helping to organize the fall event, which attracted 115,000 participants across Canada in 2001.

The position involves everything from marketing strategy, research and designing spreadsheets to dealing with run participants and volunteers. "I'm loving the work and it's giving me great experience," Harrison says. "I think it will help me get a job -- I'm learning more about working in an office environment, the team approach, and gaining technical skills. I would encourage everyone to do this sort of thing."

Third-year Applied Science student Paul Wieringa is spending four months on a co-op placement at Deco Automotive in Ontario. Wieringa's major is in Integrated Engineering, a new program meeting the industry demand for engineers with a broad education and the ability to work across disciplinary boundaries. As a summer engineering student, he is conducting a feasibility study on integrating a new step in the welding cell manufacturing process.

Wieringa says the placement is giving him great training in workplace practices, and the chance to explore various aspects of the engineering field, working with mechanical engineers and machinists.

"If I see an engineer doing something I find interesting, I can ask to get involved. It's an opportunity for me to step up to the plate, so to speak," he says. "I think this placement will be a great experience. In my first two weeks, I've already had a lot of exposure to new concepts and mindsets, as well as technology and software."


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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