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a world of opportunities
Expecting co-op students to be able to navigate this shrunken job market without being provided with any additional resources, is a recipe for disaster. Image: University of Ottawa co-op website.

The university needs to ensure it does more to look after its beleaguered co-op students

For first- and second-year co-op students, who typically enter the job market with scant work experience, finding a placement can be difficult under the best of circumstances. 

This year, in the midst of a worsening pandemic as winter weather drives more people indoors, it is a nerve-wracking experience.

Full disclosure, I am not a first- or second-year student and am not participating in the winter job hunt (I’m currently on a co-op term). But I have navigated the shrunken co-op job market, and I’ve seen firsthand the number of businesses and government departments who have implemented hiring freezes. 

The number of jobs available this fall was significantly lower than that of years past, and the fact that the University of Ottawa co-op office is only holding a single continuous job-matching round this term, unlike the multiple discrete rounds that were held in the past, suggests that job numbers are still severely limited.

COVID-19’s affect on the job market is obviously outside of the control of co-op personnel, who have indicated in weekly newsletters that they are devoting all available resources to finding jobs for students — but fundamentally, too much has changed for them to be able to continue offering the same service. 

While the co-op office offers mock interviews and one-on-one meetings, as in years past, no significant new or upgraded initiatives to connect students with employment opportunities have been announced. One co-op term costs approximately $800 in exchange for a promised 97 per cent employment rate: if the university is unable to provide either the jobs or the personnel to maintain this, students should reconsider the program’s value for the immediate future.

Expecting co-op students to be able to navigate this shrunken job market without being provided with any additional resources, is a recipe for disaster. 

The university needs to dedicate more resources to ensuring its co-op students are getting their money’s worth from the program or it needs to lessen the financial burden of a system unable to fully operate in the current environment.