SFU to increase international co-op opportunities for students

September 05, 2019

It’s no secret that SFU students who pursue co-op education gain hands-on work experience that places them ahead of their peers when it comes to landing jobs after graduation.

And now, SFU has committed to increase international co-op internships, which give students an extra edge in our increasingly global economy.

Earlier this month, Elizabeth Elle, SFU’s vice-provost and associate vice-president, learning and teaching, joined more than 50 university presidents, education association executives, and high-ranking government officials at the University of Cincinnati. There, at the birthplace of co-operative education, they signed the first Global Charter for Co-op and Work-Integrated Education.

The inaugural signatory organizations — representing 14 countries and five continents —committed to grow the number and quality of international co-op and work-integrated educational opportunities for students around the world.

"At SFU our goal is to equip students with the knowledge, skills and experiences that prepare them for life in an ever-changing and increasingly challenging world, and international work-integrated learning is an important part of our strategy toward meeting this goal,” says Elle.  

Co-operative education has a proud history at SFU. Over the past decade, co-op education has increased 44 per cent to 4,100 work terms in 2019, up from 2,265 work terms in 2009. Over the same period, participation in co-op has increased by 30 per cent, to 9,200 students a year in 2019, up from 6,365 in 2009, with seven to eight percent of the 4,100 work placements in 2019 being international.

More than a quarter of all SFU students are involved in co-op, a program where they explore their career possibilities by alternating between study semesters and paid, resumé-boosting work semesters. There are 72 undergraduate and 18 graduate co-op programs at SFU. The new School of Sustainable Energy Engineering’s undergraduate co-op program will begin this fall.

The charter, led by the World Association for Cooperative and Work-Integrated Education (WACE), also called on partner institutions to develop student courses that enhance intercultural understanding, with a focus on equity, diversity and inclusion; and to hold discussions with businesses to determine ‘global work readiness’.

Says Elle, “As Canada’s engaged university, we recognize that international opportunities are an essential component of the student experience and we were proud to sign the WACE Charter and make a commitment to increase opportunities for students to obtain meaningful, international, work-integrated experiences.”


26 per cent of all SFU students participate in Co-op

90 programs – There are 72 undergrad and 18 undergraduate co-op programs at SFU

4,100 – the number of co-op work terms per year.

4 per cent – the increase in co-op work terms compared to last year.

248 students – the number of student work terms at SFU in 2018 (SFU is the largest employer of SFU co-op students) The organization that recruited the most co-op students is SFU. Over 248 work terms were conducted on campus last year.

7 - 8 per cent – International work terms: out of the annual 4,100 work internships in 2019, seven to eight per cent saw students working abroad.