April 21, 2020Print | PDF
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the approach to teaching and learning and Wilfrid Laurier University’s nationally accredited co-operative education program is no exception.
Despite the pandemic’s many challenges and the changes it has brought to everyday life, employers participating in Laurier’s co-operative education program have adapted to ensure that co-op students continue to receive exceptional work-learn experiences.
“Employers are committed to providing Laurier co-op students with experiences that allow them to develop future-ready skills and are adapting to help students thrive despite the current situation,” says Laurie M. Lahn, associate director of co-operative education and external relations at Laurier. “We are grateful for their flexibility and resourcefulness.”
Several employers have moved to work-from-home scenarios, allowing Laurier students to remain employed and ensuring their safety by adhering to physical distancing practices.
The Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), which delivers programs and services to support innovation and economic growth in the region, and Deloitte Canada, an audit and assurance firm, quickly shifted Laurier co-op students to remote working environments in late March. FedDev Ontario and Deloitte Canada kept students connected with their work responsibilities through online resources, participation in team meetings and daily check-ins with supervisors using virtual conference platforms. FedDev Ontario also plans to remotely onboard nine new student employees in policy and program analyst roles and IT programming positions for the start of the spring co-op term on May 4.
Agricultural insurer Heartland Farm Mutual will also onboard a Laurier student to a finance role in May. In addition to the company’s formal onboarding program, new hires will have access to training experiences developed by Laurier co-op students finishing their winter work terms at Heartland.
The rapid transition to work-from-home co-op positions has been successful for many students and employers, a positive sign for the upcoming term. However, Lahn recognizes that some co-op employers may have concerns considering this “new normal.”
“Laurier’s co-op students are some of highest achievers in the country,” says Lahn. “They are innovative and resilient and have adapted well amid the pandemic. I would encourage any employer with hesitations about the spring co-op term to consider the skills and expertise that Laurier students can bring to a virtual workplace at this time.”
Lahn is also impressed with how Laurier’s co-op employers have contributed their services to support others during the current crisis.
Bonfire Interactive – which specializes in helping governments and public-sector agencies make quicker and improved procurement decisions – has made its procurement tool “Bonfire Strategic Sourcing” free until July 4. The tool digitizes the procurement process, connecting organizations and suppliers while reducing the need for in-person meetings.
“We’re looking at it as our public service – to allow anyone who wants to move these processes online to just kind of do it as fast as possible,” says Bonfire co-founder and Laurier alumnus Corry Flatt (BBA ‘07).
The tool has been used to procure an array of goods during COVID-19, including laptops and IT contracts to accommodate work-from-home scenarios and decontamination suits.
Bonfire employed two Laurier co-op students during the winter term and will employ a new Laurier hire this spring.
Laurier’s team of co-operative education professionals is available to work with employers and students to ensure that co-op work terms continue to be successful learning experiences. Delaying the start of co-op positions, developing remote onboarding strategies, altering the length of the position and adapting the scope and requirements of roles are some of the solutions employers and students can explore. Answers to frequently asked questions about co-op during COVID-19 are available online.
“We’re here to help our co-op employers and students,” says Lahn. “We’re in this together and together we can make it work.”
To connect with a co-operative education professional at Laurier, email email@example.com.