- What is co-operative education?
Co-op, short for co-operative education, is a program offered by many universities that allows students to gain practical work experience related to their field of study while pursuing their academic degree. In a co-op program, students alternate between periods of academic study and paid work experience with an employer relevant to their field of study. The purpose of co-op programs is to provide students with hands-on experience, to help them build professional networks, and to enhance their employment prospects upon graduation. In addition to gaining valuable work experience, co-op students also earn income during their work terms, which can help offset the cost of tuition and living expenses.
- What is the difference between a co-op work term, placement, and practicum?
Co-op is a form of experiential learning that allows students to gain paid experience in a professional workplace setting related to their program of study. Students alternate between full-time study terms and paid work terms. Students complete 3 work terms over the course of their degree. Co-op work terms are full-time paid opportunities that are 12-16 weeks in duration. Employers would have students with them full-time for 35 hours/week throughout the work term. Work terms can be in-person, hybrid, or remote. Co-op work terms are not for academic credit.
A placement is typically unpaid and may only be 8-10 hours/week of work-related experience which a student will complete while enrolled in other courses. For example, Business students at Trent can enroll in a placement course that is 100 hours of unpaid work experience during a 12-week semester that they will complete on a part-time basis scheduled around their other academic courses. Placements are for-credit experiences.
A practicum, on the other hand, is a more intensive and longer-term work experience that is designed to give students the opportunity to apply their academic learning in a real-world setting. Practicums are often required as part of a professional licensed program such as nursing, social work, or teacher education, and involve supervised work experience in a professional setting. Practicums can last anywhere from a few weeks to a full academic term and are usually completed during the final year of degree programs. Practicums are for-credit experiences.
- Are students available year-round?
There are a variety of co-op programs at Trent University with different work term schedules, so depending on the year there could be students available during Fall, Winter or Summer terms. Students in the co-op program are expected to complete three paid work terms, 12-16 weeks in duration. Concurrent work terms for 8 months (back-to-back work terms) are possible for some programs. The work term schedule for all available co-op programs can be found here.
- How long is the average co-op work term?
Co-op work terms are typically 12 to 16 weeks in duration with an expectation that the position is full-time at 35 hours per week. This gives the students the opportunity to manage well-defined special projects and tasks that will provide them with a valuable learning experience while also fulfilling your organizations’ needs. Some co-op programs can accommodate 8-month work terms (back-to-back), and the work term schedule can be found here.
- What fields of study do you have co-op students in?
We currently have more than 20 co-op degree programs at Trent University in the areas of Business, Humanities & Social Sciences, and Sciences. The full list of our current co-op programs can be found here.
- What type of work can co-op students be hired for?
Co-op students can be hired for a variety of job roles depending on their field of study and the industry they are interested in. With more than 21 different co-op programs at Trent, we encourage employers to view some of our specific Co-op Employer Information Sheets for our different co-op programs! You can view those resources here.
- What are my responsibilities as a co-op employer and/or supervisor?
As a co-op employer, you play a central role in introducing Trent students to the professional world and work environments. To ensure a positive experience for both you and the student, we ask that you:
- Set and manage expectations on the responsibilities and job duties during the work term, including helping to align the student’s learning objectives and outcomes to their work.
- Offer regular coaching and mentorship to the student throughout the work term, ensuring that communication is open, and their supervisor is regularly available.
- Provide open feedback to the Co-op Coordinator regarding the student’s progress throughout the work term, while also providing feedback to the student.
- Complete a midterm and final evaluation of the student’s performance as requested by the Co-op Coordinator.
- Offer fair compensation to co-op students based on job responsibilities and current labour standards, legislation, and post-secondary policies.
- Remember this is an opportunity for students to learn while gaining work experience! Mistakes can and will happen occasionally, and that’s okay too! Constructive feedback is important to any student’s success both academically and during Work Integrated Learning (WIL).
- Does the student become part of my WSIB complement?
In general, if you hire a co-op student, which are required to be paid by the organization, they may be covered by your workplace's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) coverage, depending on the province or territory where your organization is located. It is important to check the WSIB rules and regulations in your province or territory to ensure you have appropriate WSIB coverage.
- Which important dates should I mark in my calendar when I recruit a student?
For a Fall Work Term Start, students will work from September to December. The preferred timeline to receive job postings for the Fall Term is May to June.
For a Winter Work Term Start, students will work from January to April. The preferred timeline to receive job postings for the Winter Term is September to October.
For a Summer Work Term Start, students will work from May to August. The preferred timeline to receive job postings for the Summer Term is January to February.
If you need to post earlier or later than the preferred timeline, please reach out to email@example.com
- What funding is available to support the recruitment and hiring of co-op students?
Your organization can receive a provincial tax credit of up to $3,000 through the Ontario Co-Operative Education Tax Credit, plus federal wage subsidies through the Student Work Placement Program. Visit our Funding for Co-op Employers page for more information.
- Where do I post a co-op position?
Co-op employers will utilize the Student Experience Portal to post their co-op jobs on our Co-op Job Board. Please watch this video or view the text guide for detailed instructions on how to set up your employer account on the Student Experience Portal and post on the Co-op Job Board. Information about hiring timelines, employer and student responsibilities, and tax credit letter information is also shared in the video and text guide.
Please note that not all co-op programs at Trent are using the Student Experience Portal. For inquiries about the Accounting, Business, Economics or Conservation Biology Co-op programs, please contact the respective Co-op Coordinator as seen on the Contact Us page.
Start by logging into the Student Experience Portal (SEP) to access the Co-op Job Board. After setting up an SEP account, employers can access the self-serve portal for posting positions.
Creating an Employer Account
1. Visit trentu.ca/sep and select “Employer/Host Organization”
2. Under “Login Information” select “Register”
3. Populate the form with all the relevant information and click “Continue”
Please allow 1-2 business days for your account has been approved.
Posting to the Co-op Job Board:
1. Log in to the SEP using your account information
2. Select the Co-op Job Board
3. Select either "Post a New Job" or "Repost a Job"
4. Complete the job posting form
5. Submit the job posting for approval
Need help with posting your position? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
You have the ability to edit live postings, including dates and deadlines. Careerspace reviews all jobs before posting.
- Am I guaranteed to be matched with a student if I post a job?
Co-operative education follows a real-world recruitment process. Employers will conduct recruitment and interview processes similar to hiring processes for regular employees, and therefore you are not guaranteed a student for a job you have posted. Students will apply for jobs and have the opportunity to interview with your organization for the position they feel is the right fit for them. You will also need to make hiring decisions that best fit your organizational needs, and as such, not all co-op job positions will be successful.
- Who do I contact if I have additional questions or would like to recruit a co-op student?
For general inquiries, please email email@example.com and we would be happy to help! If you have a program specific question you can contact one of our Co-op staff directly. Please visit our Co-op Contact Us page for specific contact information.
- Things are going well with my co-op student. Can I extend their work term?
If you would like to extend their work term, you should first check with the Co-op Coordinator at Trent University to find out if an extension is possible in the students' program. If an extension is allowed, you should discuss the possibility with your co-op student and make sure that they are interested and available to continue working for your organization. You should also consider any potential impact that an extension might have on the co-op student's academic schedule and overall program requirements.
Assuming that an extension is possible and the co-op student is willing and able to continue working for your organization, you should work with them to determine the details of the extension. This might include adjusting the work schedule or duties, updating their employment contract or agreement, and communicating any changes to the Co-op Coordinator at Trent.
It's important to remember that co-op students are students working towards completion of their degree program, and their academic progress and program requirements should always be a priority. If an extension is not possible or advisable, you should work with the Co-op Coordinator and the co-op student to plan for a smooth transition at the end of the planned work term.
- Things are not going so well with my student. What action can I take?
If the co-op student is performing poorly or other issues have arisen, there are a few actions you can take to address the situation:
- Communicate: Schedule a meeting with your co-op student to discuss your concerns and give them feedback. Be specific about what you would like to see improved and provide examples of where they are falling short in their job role. Encourage them to ask questions and share their perspective as well, encourage an open and honest discussion. If preferred, contact the student’s Co-op Coordinator to attend this discussion. Provide support: Identify areas where your co-op student is struggling and provide them with the support they need to succeed. This might include additional training, mentoring, or resources.
- Set clear expectations: Clarify your expectations for your co-op student's work and behaviour, including deadlines, quality standards, and workplace policies. Make sure that they understand what is expected of them and how they will be evaluated.
- Document performance: Keep a record of your co-op student's performance, including any issues, concerns, and feedback you provide. This documentation may be useful if you need to take further action, such as terminating the co-op placement.
- Seek help: If you are unsure how to address the situation or if the issues are more serious, consider reaching out to your organization's HR department or the Co-op Coordinator at Trent for further assistance.
If, despite your best efforts, the co-op student's performance does not improve, you may need to consider terminating the co-op work term early. However, this should only be done as a last resort and in accordance with the co-op program's policies and procedures. Termination of a co-op student should be done with care, sensitivity, and respect for the co-op student's personal well-being.