For many NAIT students, finding a co-op or field placement is a required, but stressful, part of their studies. NAIT’s Work Integrated Learning (WIL) encompasses over 40 programs, (excluding apprenticeships) and is geared toward “opportunities for students to develop technical proficiency, employability and enabling soft skills.” WIL placements can include mandatory professional practices, field or clinical placements, and co-ops. The responsibility of obtaining a placement falls on the student but, thankfully Career Services is here to help. Kristina Lysova, the Supervisor of Advising and Career Services, had some excellent pointers to give when interviewed.
First and foremost, Lysova recommends for students to “stay close to … [and] communicate with your program”. The chairs/instructors of NAIT’s programs assist students in finding co-ops in their designated fields and are often the most valuable resource. NAIT’s Career Connect is also an excellent platform to take advantage of, as any business that wants to offer positions directly to NAIT students must go through this platform. Career Connect lets students filter through the different types of WIL as well as create your own profile to market yourself.
Advisors from Career Services can look at resumes, cover letters and job postings to help you improve your overall application. Not all students will have previous experience in industries in which their program is applicable, but skills can still be transferable. Lysova further explained to look at the experience you have in the classroom, “If you are in a program that has a lot of group projects or … assignments, how [is your] ability to work on [a] team? Maybe you found yourself often taking the lead,” said Lysova.
Clubs and volunteering
Lysova also suggested joining a club, getting a part time job or to volunteer in the industry you’re hoping to work in. This allows you to form connections, and “shows that you’re thinking about industry, you’re interested in that industry, and you already have taken some steps.”
Depending on your program, the WIL can be paid OR unpaid. The paid position wages vary by industry. If you head to NAIT’s website, there is a full list of programs with WIL, if it is paid/ unpaid, and whether international students need work permits. If you are an international student in need of a work permit, make an appointment with an advisor from NAIT’s International and Intercultural Community Centre.
“Maybe this is the feminist in me, but I am a little bit disappointed that a lot of our female dominated fields, [like] health sciences are unfortunately unpaid. Then, on the other hand … we have a lot more male students in engineering programs and those tend to all be paid,” said Lysova.
If you’re being interviewed for a co-op position, you will often be asked if you have any questions. Many will jump to questions about wage or benefits, but Lysova warned that “it would probably be wise to park the questions that would not be appropriate until after the offer has been made.” She also cautioned against asking for feedback during the interview. “Save it until two, three weeks later, if you believe you haven’t gotten the position.” “People tend to not like to give critical feedback, especially in the face-to-face scenario,” Lysova explained.
Finding a co-op can be challenging, but these simple tips and the resources at NAIT should help any student feel more confident in their journey to find a placement.