uOttawa Kanata North campus and co-op: Bridging academia and business

Faculty of Engineering
Kanata North
Student life
A group of professor looking at a student pointing at her computer
In higher education, co-operative (co-op) education programs have emerged as a bridge between academia and industry, and an integral part of training at many universities across Canada.

The University of Ottawa boasts a robust co-op work term program, offering students in eligible disciplines opportunities to gain practical experience with companies and make connections in their chosen fields, while earning a salary during a four-month work term.

Although most universities work with industries to provide co-op opportunities, uOttawa is uniquely positioned, with a presence right in Canada’s largest tech park — home to over 550 companies and 33,000 skilled workers.

In 2019, the University became the first postsecondary institution to establish a satellite campus in the tech park. With a mission to further foster and support academia-industry collaboration in Kanata North, such as experiential learning co-op placements, the uOttawa Kanata North campus has a satellite office for the co-op team and facilitates co-op opportunities in the tech community for students.

Hands-on learning beyond the classroom

Gabe Braden, an undergraduate software engineering student, epitomizes the co-op experience. Having completed three co-op terms, Gabe highlights the hands-on learning gained in real-world settings. “You can’t really learn everything you need to succeed at work from within a classroom.”

Working with tech park-based technology company Solace, which helps enterprises leverage event-driven architecture, Gabe was involved in product feature rollouts, bug fixes and customer interactions, honing both technical expertise and soft skills crucial for professional growth.

Similarly, Marco Cen, a recent uOttawa software engineering graduate, found his co-op journey transformative. Now working full time at CAE, an aerospace and aviation technology, he says, “My four CO-OP work terms gave me a good sense of what was to come in the work force related to my field and its multiple domains, compared to an academic or personal setting. As the saying goes, ‘experience is the best teacher.’” This sentiment is shared by other co-op participants.

For Kewei Zhang, a uOttawa master’s student in mathematics and statistics, co-op work terms opened doors. In her placement at Kinaxis, a supply chain management and software company, she focused on data analysis, applying theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios in supply chain management. Despite initial challenges with soft skills, especially with English not being her first language, Kewei’s perseverance and the support provided by the co-op program helped her thrive, reaffirming her career goals.

Marco Cen

“My four CO-OP work terms gave me a good sense of what was to come in the work force related to my field and its multiple domains, compared to an academic or personal setting.”

Marco Cen

— 2023 BASc Software Engineering

A beneficial partnership for students and employers

The benefits of uOttawa’s co-op program extend beyond individual success stories. Chantal Yelle, the program’s supervisor of business development and partnerships, says that since the opening of the uOttawa Kanata North campus, annual industry co-op placements in Kanata North have grown by almost 100%, with representation from five out of the six uOttawa faculties that offer co-op.  Ten percent of all uOttawa CO-OP placements are completed in the tech park.

With over 40 years of history and 4,254 placements in 2023, the uOttawa co-op program has adapted to the times, using technology to connect students with prospective employers. Yelle mentions the program’s student satisfaction rate of 88% in 2023, and says that strong uOttawa relationships with employers offer the latter a pipeline of employees and fresh perspectives.

In a competitive job market, co-op experience is a significant advantage. A 2011 Statistics Canada Youth in Transition Survey revealed that co-op graduates earn higher starting salaries and are more likely to secure prestigious positions than their graduates without co-op experience. For employers, CO-OP and internship students are a valuable source of talent.

Although the CO-OP program at uOttawa continues to flourish, challenges exist, particularly fluctuations in the employment market. As Yelle notes, resilience remains key. The uOttawa co-op program is ready to weather shifts in market conditions and ensure students are ready to contribute to the workforce.

For current and former students like Gabe, Marco and Kewei, their CO-OP experiences in Canada’s largest tech park allowed them to discover their strengths, develop networks and gain relevant work experience as a foundation for their career success.

For more information about the uOttawa Kanata North campus or uOttawa CO-OP programs, email our Kanata North campus or email the co-op office.