When Khuong Vu walked across the stage to receive his undergraduate degree at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) recently, he already had a job.
And he’s convinced it’s because of the three co-operative education (co-op) placements he did while working on his BBA in accounting at KPU.
Without co-op, I would not be where I am today,” says Vu, who is an assurance associate for PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Co-op opened doors for me.”
Co-operative education is a program that integrates academic studies with paid, full-time work. KPU students who enrol in co-op gain practical experience in their chosen field while earning a competitive wage.
Co-op programs alternate between study and work semesters, thereby allowing students to apply the skills and knowledge they acquire from their on-campus courses to real-life work experiences, and vice-versa.
“It’s a winning experiential combination,” says Shawn Erickson, KPU’s director of Co-operative Education and Career Services. “Students graduate with a credential having gained insight into their chosen field, while earning a salary.”
Co-op placements at KPU have grown from 134 placements in the 2008/09 semester to 264 placements in 2013/14. Erickson credits the success of the program to the hard work of his KPU team and the accomplishments of Co-op students in their work terms.
“There really is no downside to cooperative education,” says Erickson. “Students gain experience while making positive contributions to the success of their co-op employer through the skills and knowledge they bring to the workplace.”
Vu completed three co-op placements at KPU. He worked at Heli-One as a finance intern doing bank reconciliations, variance analysis and a project for the company’s Chief Financial Officer. Vu also worked as a corporate tax assessor for the Canada Revenue Agency.
“My work term expanded my overall academic experience,” Vu explains. “I felt like a contributor in my classes rather than just a student learning something and needing to pass.”
Vu says co-op placements also give students valuable opportunities to network because “you never know who will help you down the road. Connections are so important these days.”
KPU offers co-operative education within the following programs:
Computer information systems diploma
Environmental technology diploma
Marketing management diploma
Bachelor of technology in information technology
Bachelor of business administration in accounting
Bachelor of business administration in entrepreneurial leadership
Bachelor of business administration in human resources management
For more information on co-operative education at KPU, visit www.kpu.ca/co-op.
Caption: Khuong Vu says his co-op placement helped him find employment after graduation.