A new year always brings opportunities for a fresh
start. That feeling is certainly felt around all Crowe MacKay
offices, where during the first weeks of January, the fresh crop of
Co-operative Education Program (co-op) students from local
post-secondary schools start their work term. Initially, the
students, with their slightly dazed looks, are easily identifiable
as they dive into accounting outside the classroom. A co-op
program is a win-win scenario for both the student and the firm and
getting involved is simpler than you might think.
Christine Wasilieff, MBA CPA, CGA and controller for Canoe
Forest products Ltd. (CFP) recently hired a co-op forestry student
from Thomson Rivers University (TRU) to work in the company's
accounting department. Located just outside Salmon Arm, CFP
produces superior quality Canadian softwood sheathing and specialty
plywood products under the trademark CANOE
We took a few minutes of Christine's time to speak to her
about the co-op experience.
What made you decide to hire a co-op student?
Due to changes in the accounting department we wanted to
hire a short term employee; however, we wanted the employee to also
receive a benefit. We realized that an eight month co-op
would allow a student to gain practical experience and move
smoothly back to their degree program with improved skills and
abilities. And after completing their degree, the student
could take those skills to the local community and apply them in
a career in the forestry industry.
Reflecting on the company's experience with co-op
education, were there any surprising benefits for the
Working with the co-op student coordinators, we had access
to potential future employees offering enthusiasm and a quest for
learning while striving to apply the business concepts taught at
TRU. This challenged the accounting department to review processes
and share best practices while also learning some tips and
techniques on training and information sharing with the
Being involved in the TRU's co-op education program was
a success in the administration department. CFP has now hired a
co-op student to work in our forestry department and other business
segments have or will also hire co-op students. Moving forward, we
plan to integrate further involvement in co-op programs into our
While Canoe had an immediate, short-term need, a co-op education
program can also become integrated into a firm's
long-term growth strategy, as is the case with Crowe MacKay. The
firms recruits new students annually during tax season, and has
created a program which moves students from the
classroom into practical experience easily and efficiently –
which means that dazed look of new students is short
Each co-op student at the firm receives training, a coach (a
young professional) and are placed within a team. As an articling
accounting firm, Crowe MacKay has committed to developing young
professionals to become designated accountants, and working with
co-op students gives those young professionals the opportunity to
develop highly-valued coaching, training and communications skills.
In this case, it's a win-win-win for the student, the young
professional and the firm.
Tax season - everyone knows what it is and probably has a joke
or two to tell about it. Co-op programs can help a a firm can
increase its staff to handle the increased volume of work during
this season or other seasonal peaks, and then have a pool of
skilled candidates available to hire from. Crowe MacKay is home to
a large number of co-op program alumni, including myself.
Being involved with local co-op programs hosted by colleges and
universities creates a strong long-term community connection and
can result in opportunities for business and future recruitment
that would not otherwise be available.
From a student's point of view, participating in a co-op
education program provides valuable paid work experience that
increases your future employability versus other grads. With
Canada's youth unemployment rate trending at around 13%, the
competitive advantage offered by co-op programs shouldn't be
For companies, post-secondary institutions make it easy to get
involved. According to Tanya Tarlit, Okanagan College's
Employment Coordinator, a simple email to the co-op office is all
that is necessary to get started. In your email, don't
forget to include a job description and company information. After
a brief follow up with the co-op office you will be well on
your way to welcoming enthusiastic and skilled students ready to
support your organization.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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