uOttawa students talk: Benefits of CO-OP

Posted on Friday, June 15, 2018

Sheldon Harrison and his colleagues socialize over a meal.

CO-OP student Sheldon Harrison (centre) with colleagues at Dai Nippon Printing Co. Ltd., Chiba, Japan. 

By Linda Scales

Talk to any of uOttawa’s CO-OP students and you’re bound to get a good story. It might be about what they’ve learned (while getting paid), such as Prabhroop Kaur Chawla’s new desktop publishing skills acquired at the Senate. It can also be a life lesson, like that passed on by Sheldon Harrison, currently interning in Japan. He says it’s important to learn “how to move on from past failure and laugh off a lot of mishaps that will inevitably happen.” Read about Chawla, Harrison and three other CO-OP students below.

Since the co-operative education program launched some 38 years ago, uOttawa students in up to 85 programs have credited it with helping them gain both professional and life experience, in addition to their degrees. These factors combined with travel opportunities and meeting interesting people, have contributed to their establishing careers after graduation.

Experience of a lifetime

Sheldon Harrison

Hometown: Mississauga, Ont.

Program: Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering

CO-OP placement: Dai Nippon Printing Co. Ltd., Chiba, Japan (Canada-Japan CO-OP Program)

Graduating: 2020


This company is very big here in Japan and is on the bleeding edge of technology. I’m an intern in the patterning and technology R&D department, where I’ve gotten to work in a bunch of different fields, like creating microscopic artificial organs. I have zero background in any kind of biology, so learning how to work in a sterilized environment and understand what a bunch of long bio words mean, all while trying to do my experiment correctly, was a huge challenge. I loved that, though.

Personally, I’ve learned how to deal with just about any kind of obstacle that pops up.  Right now, I’m about as linguistically adept in Japanese as a two-year-old. I’ve even told my boss he looked very pretty thinking I was talking about the nice weather!

The best thing about CO-OP is how they help you do an international work term. I received guidance, funding (from the International Office and Faculty of Engineering, as well) and overall assistance to make this all possible.

This has definitely been the experience of a lifetime.

Boosting my confidence 100%

Brent Jensen

Brent Jensen. Photo: Jaymee Dixon

Brent Jensen

Hometown: Georgetown, Ont.

Program: Political Science with Minor in Management, Faculty of Social Sciences

CO-OP placement: Desk Nibbles, Ottawa (RBC uOttawa Entrepreneurship Program)

Graduating: 2020


The CO-OP program is incredible because it gives you realistic expectations about how to communicate with people and how to set goals for yourself that will actually succeed in the workplace. I’m working as a business developer/sales development representative at Desk Nibbles, a local startup, where I’m learning how to do things that are relevant to myself in the future. Working here has really put the fire under me to switch into the Telfer School of Management, which I’m in the process of doing.

I think I have a more realistic expectation of what it’s like to work and what it takes to be successful.

Doing CO-OP has boosted my confidence 100%.

Opportunity to work across Canada

Pascale Laforge smiling (second from right) with colleagues against a shoreline background.

Pascale Laforge (second from right) with Parks Canada colleagues.

Pascale Laforge

Hometown: Rockland, Ont.

Program: Anthropology and Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences

CO-OP placement: Parks Canada, Vancouver, B.C.

Graduating: 2019


Over the last four months, I’ve been working in Vancouver for Parks Canada as an urban outreach team member. My job is to connect with the public at local venues, events and festivals and tell them about Canada’s national parks, marine conservation areas and national historic sites. I also did this position on the Ottawa team last summer.

While here I’ve learned how best to approach tricky situations with the public and make everyone feel heard, while also representing the government and its messaging. I’ve learned a lot about approaching situations in a non-confrontational manner, as well as the best methods to communicate with various groups of people.

CO-OP gives you the opportunity to work in a variety of places, and because each work term is short, there’s the opportunity to work with as many different employers as you wish. In my case, I’ve gotten to work across the country and meet people from a lot of different cultural backgrounds. I’ve made some wonderful friends along the way!

Opens many doors

Isabelle D’Aoust sitting attentively with other students.

Isabelle D’Aoust

Isabelle D’Aoust

Hometown: Gatineau, Que.

Program: Human Resources Management, Telfer School of Management

CO-OP placement: ADGA Group Consultants Inc., Ottawa

Graduating: 2019


Working in the world of talent acquisition, I’ve realized how much gaining connections and experience (in the workplace or through extracurricular activities) is important for starting a career after graduation. I’ve definitely understood the extent that a business’s culture, the work environment and the team I work with add to my satisfaction in a work situation. It’s easy to believe that being passionate about your work is all that counts, but these elements have to be considered as well.

During my placements, I’ve worked with different clients and colleagues. I now have contacts around the world, such as in Barbados and even Italy. The program definitely opens many doors!

Supports my passion for Parliament

Prabhroop Kaur Chawla

Hometown: Vancouver, B.C.

Program: International Development and Globalization, Faculty of Social Sciences

CO-OP placement: Senate of Canada, Ottawa

Graduating: 2019


I currently work in the Senate’s legislative sector, in the Office of the Principal Clerk for Table Research and in the Chamber Operations and Procedure Office. I’m updating the Companion to the Rules of the Senate of Canada. Anything that is cited or referred to in the Companion and requires research and updating, I’ve worked on. The main goal was to bring the Companion on to a more modern platform. I’ve also been learning Adobe InDesign. I didn’t have any publishing experience when I started, but was provided with classes, tools and resources to be able to learn.

This should have been my second CO-OP work term, but is technically my first. When I started at uOttawa I was also working as a page in the Senate. Because this coincided with the start of the first work term, the CO-OP office exempted me. 

I’ll be returning to Parliament Hill for my next work term. I love working there. I think the best part of CO-OP is its support of my passion for Parliament.

Prabhroop Kaur Chawla at a desk in the Senate chamber with other formally dressed officials.

Prabhroop Kaur Chawla worked as a Senate page. Photo: Senate of Canada

5 things about uOttawa CO-OP

  1. CO-OP is available in 77 bachelor's programs and 8 master’s programs.
  2. About 1,500 students are accepted each year.
  3. CO-OP students enjoy workshops and consultations, covering resumé writing to interviewing strategies to transitioning from student to employee.
  4. CO-OP placements outside of Canada are available, in addition to placements across Canada. In 2017, 125 international work placements were filled in 35 countries.
  5. For summer 2018, there are 10.4% more CO-OP students on placements than in the previous summer. This is the largest number in the program’s history.
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