Mount Saint Vincent University's co-operative education program is celebrating 40 years of shifting students' learning from the classroom to the workplace, and helping to break the "you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to gain experience" cycle.
After completing paid work terms in industries related to their fields of study, 90 percent of the Mount's recent co-op graduates secured employment within six months of graduation; Catherine Chase is one of them.
Catherine completed the co-op program as part of a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a double major in Marketing and Management. This required Catherine to attend regular business courses such as economics, statistics and accounting, and complete three work terms in her field of choice.
"We don't always know what we want to do after school, and it's easy to want to apply to jobs with cool titles. Personally, I thought deeply about the skills I wanted to hone in on and I applied to the jobs that would help me grow them." Catherine says. "This co-op program was my chance to try different careers out, ensuring that I would finish with a variety of skills and experiences under my belt."
Catherine was able to take what she learned in class at the Mount, and then directly apply it to the work environment. She completed her work terms at Credit Union Atlantic; at the Mount's Department of Business and Tourism Office; and for the Department of Energy and Mines – where Catherine was successful in securing a job for nearly two years.
Catherine worked as a Clean Energy Development Coordinator on Sustainable Transportation across the province, and she wouldn't have known that this was the perfect opportunity for her if she hadn't completed the co-op program.
Catherine recently left this position and accepted a new position with the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness in the CoLab space as a Data Analyst. The NS CoLab is a collaborative initiative aimed at incorporating the views of stakeholders and catalyzing innovation in the province's critical health system projects and design.
"I attribute my ability to land these jobs to the co-op opportunity," Catherine says. "Because without it, I wouldn't have had the network that I have now, and I wouldn't have had the skills to go into an interview and rock it." says Catherine.
Being a co-op student also allowed Catherine to build on her skills through constructive criticism from employers. "I had to remember that this was a learning experience and that I didn't need to have all of the answers. Co-op isn't about proving yourself to different employers, it's about what you can learn from them."
The Mount and the co-op program helped shape who Catherine is as a person, a student and a hard-working employee.
The Mount offers co-op programs to those pursuing Business, Tourism and Public Relations degrees, with internships and practica available across other Mount programs.