Thoughts About The (Near) Future of Co-op Irwin Reichstein School of Computer Science A Brief History of Co-op at Carleton University. When the School of Computer Science was established in 1980, the first director John Neilson understood the importance of co-op to what is essentially a professional program. Accordingly, as the School grew, I was tasked in 1988 with setting up what was then the first undergraduate co-op program at Carleton University. The co-op started with 12 students who went out on their first work term in Winter, 1989. With the rapid growth of the program, Rosemary Carter, then the School's administrator, joined the co-op program as a part time co-ordinator and together we managed what was to remain the only undergraduate co-op program at Carleton until the establishment of the co-op office in 1997. Rosemary Carter, of course, directed the university co- op office brilliantly until her retirement in December 2005. I was chairman of the faculty co-op advisory board until last July. The Submission The main thrust of this submission is to express some views on co-op in the light of the new Career Development and Co-operative Education Office. In particular, I feel that it is important that the co-op office retain a strong and independent identity with a staff dedicated to co-op. The staff must be able to provide the services to the students and the faculty that have in the last eight years made the co-op office one of the jewels in Carleton's crown. The plans for career services outlined by Dawn Legault in her submission are excellent and indeed her assessment of the importance of career services in the context of the overall student experience are very important. I am concerned about the possibility that in the absence of additional funds, the co-op office may be diluted in an effort to enhance career services. One should emphasize that the services offered by co-op are quite different from those offered by career services. One reason is that, the co-op programs are an integral part of academic degrees. As such, it is expected that students receive mentoring before and during their work term not only on the work aspects of their co-op experience but also on the issues relating to the writing of work term reports, an essential part of their experience. A second reason is that companies treat co-op hires quite differently from full-time and summer hires. They understand that there is a partnership with the co-op office in the hiring and mentoring process and they are willing to submit to the academic and mentoring aspects of the process. They expect to have co- op co-ordinators visiting the students in a manner that would not be permitted in the context of full-time and summer hires. This requires a knowledgeable staff, dedicated to the co-op process. A third reason is that co-op students pay a fee to receive these services and are entitled to the relatively undivided attention of the co-op staff. From the university point of view co-op stands at a critical juncture in regard to three elements of strong university interest: recruitment, student experience while at Carleton and the attitude of alumni towards the University. Thus from the point of view of recruitment, especially in the technical areas, co-op is often seen as an essential element in choosing a university. A strong and visible co-op office is highly important. From the point of view of the student's university experience, co-op is an aspect of university life with which students make a strong identification. The co-op staff have been able to generate a real sense of belonging and participation which adds enormously to the student experience. This has resulted over time in alumni of the co-op returning to Carleton as employers. All surveys which I am aware of indicate that the co-op has always enjoyed a high degree of satisfaction from the students in it. Recommendations: 1) Within the context of the Career Development and Co-operative Education Office, the co-op office should remain largely distinct with a dedicated and vibrant staff devoted to the enhancement of the co-op programs. 2) The career services aspect of the office should be properly funded and staffed so that co-op students not subsidize career services. Co-op students should not be asked to share services particularly during the peak time when both the co-op and career services are at their busiest, namely during the lead-up to the summer work term. Companies should not be dealing with the same staff who may be looking for both co-op and regular jobs. 3) There should be no diminution in either the services provided to co-op students or in their sense of identification with co-op. 4) Because it is a truism that co-op is and no doubt will remain an important factor in students choosing Carleton, the co-op office should be clearly visible to the outside world. One simple way to do this would be to rename Career Development and Co-operative Education Office as the Co-operative Education and Career Development Office. 5) The co-op office should begin to look into ways of expanding co-op to more graduate programs other than the current single program in public Administration.
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