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Co-ops: accelerating careers in slow times

May 14, 2009

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By Caroline Wakelin, SFU business co-op coordinator

Correction Appended

Abid Shivji is among a growing number of SFU students who are using their co-op work experience during a shaky economy to help redefine their career goals.

Like many of the 70 or so SFU students hired each year by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), Shivji secured a co-op position last November with the agency’s client services division, answering questions from the public at tax time.

"I had a clear goal in mind," says the fourth-year SFU Business undergrad, "and that was to gain work experience that would help me obtain my Chartered Accountant designation after graduation."

But with the economic downturn, highly skilled, laid-off workers are now taking even the entry-level jobs once reserved for young people like Shivji, who are just entering the workforce. As a result, youth unemployment has risen almost seven per cent—to 13.5 per cent, according to the March 2009 BC Stats labour report.

That’s one reason why Shivji is contemplating a career switch, but he also likes working at the CRA. So he’s thinking about capitalizing on his co-op experience with the agency and enrolling in its auditor apprenticeship program, which includes a one-year apprenticeship and two years in a subsequent auditor position.

But here’s the real beauty of the program for Shivji: "It satisfies the professional level experience standard for a Chartered Accounting designation," he says, "which means I would achieve my goal of becoming a designated accountant after all."

Correction: May 21, 2009
The original, print version of this story incorrectly quoted Shivji as saying the Canada Revenue Agency's auditor apprenticeship program satisfies the standard for a Chartered Accounting (CA) designation when he actually said it satifies the standard for a Certified General Accounting (CGA) designation. The program will allow him to become a designated accountant, not a CA as previously quoted.

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