A diploma program difference

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A sketch of a person in a suit, working on a laptop. A calendar shows some days marked as exam dates.
Paying your university so that you can gain some work experience seems a little convoluted, but okay. OpenClipart-Vectors via Pixabay, manipulated by lee lim

Adding the co-op experience to diplomas would be a game changer

University is not just about ticking off boxes and fulfilling degree requirements. It is also about self-discovery, intellectual growth, and, perhaps, finding a new passion. One often overlooked aspect of this journey is the opportunity to gain practical work experience alongside academic coursework. While many are familiar with co-op programs as part of bachelor degree offerings, the potential for diploma students to participate in such programs is sometimes overlooked. 

In this installment of the “I wish we had…” series, we will delve into the often-overlooked realm of the possibility of doing a co-op program while pursuing a diploma at the University of Regina (U of R). Diploma programs are usually 2-year programs that provide students with specialized skills and practical training for usually entry-level positions in various industries, with often the option to complete a bachelor degree at a later stage. 

A co-op program, short for co-operative education program, offers students the opportunity to gain valuable work experience in their field of study while pursuing their education. These programs are structured to integrate periods of work experience known as co-op placement or internships into the academic curriculum. Students enrolled in co-op programs alternate between periods of classroom study and practical work experience, thus allowing them to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world settings and develop industry-specific skills. 

However, incorporating a co-op program into a diploma curriculum can provide additional benefits. Co-op programs allow students to gain real-world work experience in their chosen field while still in school. This hands-on experience not only enhances students’ understanding of their field but also provides valuable insights into industry practices and expectations. 

Co-op programs, with the blend of academic learning and practical work experience, have long been recognized as an asset for undergraduate education. But its integration in the diploma program is something we don’t have yet at the U of R.  

According to the official Government of Canada website, institutions must meet four requirements to be able to offer co-op programs to students. These include the authorization to grant diplomas and degrees, recognition of work terms as academic requirements, and authorization for student payment. Students must also maintain their full-time status at their respective post-secondary institution. So, then, what restricts U of R from offering co-op programs alongside its diploma curriculum?  

It’s a question worth pondering. With numerous students graduating each semester from degree and diploma programs, the university has the potential to encourage even those pursuing a two-year diploma program to gain this internship and practical work experience while studying, just like those pursuing a 4-year bachelor degree. 

It is a sad reality that nowadays there are many graduates who are not able to find a job in their field of study upon graduating, and it is sometimes even harder for those who have only pursued a two-year program. The co-op and internship programs, though not guaranteed, usually facilitate this process and make it less daunting to navigate the job search.  

Nearly all registered co-op students who are serious about their job search and are willing to invest the required time and effort do find a position for each work term, and eventually have an easier time after they graduate. Since it is an international program, it opens doors for students as the latter can not only find jobs locally but also overseas, and if they are willing to relocate the chances of securing a job before even graduating is highly likely. 

Every academic institution around the globe has a duty to its students: to educate and provide them with the tools and experiences they need to thrive in the competitive job market. Co-op programs are one such tool. While several institutions across Canada do provide this opportunity to diploma students, the U of R is still behind in this regard.  

It is time to break the barriers and seize opportunities that will help unlock the potential of U of R students who deserve nothing less. 

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