Overview of Co-operative Education at SFU
The SFU Co-operative Education program began in 1975 in the School of Computing Science. Today SFU offers co-op in all academic disciplines across 54 undergraduate and 10 graduate programs, with approximately 2,500 co-op work terms each year.
The SFU Co-operative Education program has received accreditation from Canadian Association for Co-operative Education (CAFCE), and is a member of World Association for Co-operative Education (WACE), Canadian Association for Co-operative Education (CAFCE), and Association for Co-operative Education in British Columbia / Yukon (ACE).
The Co-operative Education curriculum at SFU focuses on reflective learning, active self- monitoring and skills transfer. The SFU Co-op program offers a combination of face-to- face workshops and online self-directed learning opportunities each semester.
Co-operative Education at SFU is an optional program for the vast majority of the academic disciplines.
Two mandatory co-op programs are in the School of Engineering Science where students complete three work terms before graduation, and in the Masters of Public Policy Program where students complete one work term during the summer semester of their first year.
Students who successfully complete at least three co-op work terms are awarded a Co-operative Education degree designation when they graduate from SFU.
With successful completion of three co-op work terms, undergraduate students receive a Co-operative Education certificate upon graduation.
Philosophy of SFU Co-operative Education
Skills transfer and self-direction are key themes that underpin SFU Co-op practices and drive the SFU Co-op curriculum. The development of transferable skills and self-directing capabilities enables students to utilize increasingly complex skill sets (ranging from self, through to team and project management) in various contexts. This optimizes the students’ likelihood of adeptly transitioning between school and work and enhances their aptitude across life dimensions. To this end, SFU Co-op practitioners serve as facilitators of co-op learning, wherever possible, acting on the basis of optimizing student comprehension and achievement.
Mandate of SFU Co-operative Education
The Co-operative Education Program acts as a liaison among students, employers and the institution to:
- identify and facilitate the learning opportunities provided through a work term;
- help students determine and develop the skills and knowledge required for employment and identify related personal learning objectives;
- deliver employability-related curriculum complementing the skills and knowledge
gained through academic coursework with work-specific skills and knowledge;
- coordinate the co-op process for students and employers;
- monitor and assist all co-op students and employers during the work term; and
- liaise with each program’s faculty/school/department to ensure relevant and timely
communication between industry and academia.
Awards for SFU Co-op Students
Several SFU co-op students have received the CAFCE Co-op Student of the Year Award from the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education as well as the ACE Co-op Student of the Year Award from The Association for Co-operative Education in British Columbia/Yukon.
Each year, students are nominated by their co-op programs for the national and regional co-op student award. Students are recognized for their co-op work performance, academic achievements, and contribution to Co-operative Education and to the communities. Details are available at www.cafce.ca and www.co-op.bc.ca.
SFU Co-op students are also eligible for the SFU Co-op Student of the Year Award. Students are nominated by the SFU Co-op program in their academic discipline.
Co-operative Education Programs at SFU by Academic Discipline
The SFU Co-op program is organized into the following areas:
- Arts and Social Sciences
- Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology
- Computing Science • Education
- Engineering Science (*)
- Health Sciences
- Interactive Arts & Technology
- Arts and Social Sciences (**)
- Environmental Toxicology
- Resource and Environmental Management (REM)
*All SFU Co-op programs, except Engineering Science, are optional programs requiring students to apply for admission. Students wishing to apply to Engineering Science Co-op should refer to the Engineering Science Co-op Program office.
** It is also mandatory for students in the Masters of Public Policy Program to complete a co-op internship during the summer semester of their first year.
International Co-op Work Opportunities for SFU Students
While most students work for organizations locally and across Canada, each year approximately 150 students gain valuable co-op work experience in various parts of the world including Japan, China, India, Scotland, Australia and the United States.
For close to 20 years, SFU Co-op students have gained diverse international co-op experiences. Examples of previous work terms include: providing consulting services for small businesses in Scotland, teaching English to students and professionals in China, working in technology parks in Hong Kong, assisting Japanese businesses through the Canada – Japan Co-op Program, and participating in science and engineering research projects with universities and top research institutes across Germany.
SFU Co-op students are also encouraged to pursue international work opportunities through their own networks. AIESEC SFU, the SFU chapter of the largest student-run organization in the world, provides access to the Global Internship Program for SFU Co-op students who are interested in the internship as co-op work terms.
Students participating in an international co-op work term are encouraged to apply for an International Co-op Award. Students may be eligible for funds to cover travel, accommodation or other related expenses for international co-op work terms. More information is available at www.sfu.ca/coop/international.
Upon securing an international co-op work term, students will be registered by SFU Co-op in the Bridging International Learning (BIL) program prior to their departure.
The purpose of the Bridging International Learning program is to bring all internationally bound co-op students together in an online environment to discuss the preparations needed before leaving Canada, things to consider while they are away, as well as issues to consider upon their return.
This program offers an opportunity for students to share their excitement and questions, as well as obtain the information they need to make the international co-op experience successful. The goals of the program are to:
- help students prepare successfully for their international co-op work term;
- help students learn how to adapt to a foreign environment and workplace;
- support student learning and growth over the course of their international co-op work term; and
- support students upon their return to SFU.
Co-operative Education Curriculum at SFU
The intent of SFU Co-operative Education preparatory curriculum is to prepare students for learning in the workplace by providing students with the skills, knowledge and tools necessary for the transition between the classroom and the workplace.
The philosophical and pedagogical underpinnings that inform the learning and teaching goals and subsequently influence the design of the co-op preparatory curriculum are summarized as:
- learning through practice;
- learning through reflection;
- learning by doing; and
- learning for skills and knowledge transfer.
The SFU Co-op preparatory curriculum is delivered using a blended model with face-to- face and online components, which includes the Bridging Online preparatory program, the face-to-face workshops, the Online Learning Community (www.sfu.ca/olc), and one-on-one consultations with co-op coordinators.
The face-to-face workshops include sessions on resume and cover letter writing and interview preparation.
SFU Co-op curriculum also includes the Bridging International Learning (BIL) program.
The purpose of the BIL program is to bring all internationally bound co-op students together in an online course to discuss the preparations needed before leaving Canada, things to consider while they are away, as well as issues to consider upon their return.
More information is available in the previous section.
Work Term Definition
A co-op work term consists of full-time, paid work experience, typically 35-40 hours per week for a 13-16 week duration with a minimum of 420 hours completed. Work terms can also extend over two consecutive semesters, providing up to eight months of continuous employment. If a student accepts an eight-month co-op position (or extends a four-month work term into a second four-month work term), it counts as two co-op work terms and he or she must register for the appropriate practicum and pay co-op fees for each semester. Any variation to the above would need to be approved by the respective co-op program.
Additive Credits at SFU for Each Work Term
Each work term is recorded as a co-op practicum on a student's transcript and assigned a grade of Pass or Fail upon completion. Each work term that receives a passing grade will be given three co-op additive credits.
Additive credits refer to credits awarded in addition to the academic credits that are required to obtain an undergraduate degree at SFU. These co-op additive credits will not be applied towards the graduation requirements for any degree or program, and do not replace any academic courses. These are awarded to co-op students as a means for the University to formally recognize the achievements, experiences and program completion of the co-op students.
Requirements for Completing a Co-op Work Term
Within a typical work term, students will:
- create learning objectives at the beginning of each term;
- meet with a co-op coordinator during the work term;
- complete a work report or project report near the end of the work term;
- complete a student evaluation form near the end of the work term; and
- facilitate the completion of a supervisor evaluation form near the end of the work
There are variables in each discipline-specific co-op program. Students should consult with their programs for details.
To achieve a passing grade on a co-op practicum, completion of the following is required:
- obtain a rating of satisfactory, or better, on all supervisor evaluations; and
- obtain a rating of satisfactory, or better, for each work report or project.
Employer evaluations will remain part of a student's confidential records in the Co-operative Education Program and are retained for a minimum of one year following graduation.
Requirements for Completing Co-operative Education Program at SFU
Work terms normally begin in January, May and September each year. Once admitted into an SFU Co-op program, students are expected to alternate work terms and study semesters and be registered as a full-time student (at least nine credits) during study semesters.
Undergraduate students are expected to complete three co-op work terms before graduation.
Undergraduate students who successfully complete three co-op work terms are awarded a Co-operative Education degree designation when they graduate from SFU.
Co-op students are also expected to graduate on an academic semester.
International undergraduate students are normally eligible to complete a maximum of four co-op work terms. International students completing a graduate degree or second undergraduate degree are normally eligible to complete a maximum of two co-op work terms. The student should consult with a co-op coordinator for further details.
For Engineering Science students, co-op work terms are a mandatory part of the academic curriculum. Students must complete a minimum of three work terms as part of their undergraduate requirements. Engineering Science students should consult the Engineering Science Co-op website for a suggested academic semester/work term schedule.
Graduate students should consult the specific co-op program for requirements.