How co-op breaks the mould of linear education

1022petersAn interesting story from the Waterloo website about one of our Chemical Engineering students.  I like the story because of the broad range of experiences, including web administration (not a traditional Chem Eng area!), and an international job placement.

by Nicole Simec.

“Co-op showed me that I am not one-dimensional,” says Sheryl Peters, a fourth-year chemical engineering student finishing up her last work term.When people think about chemical engineering, they often think about jobs in oil and gas – but Sheryl says because of co-op, it is so much more than that. Currently, Sheryl is on the other side of the world helping to develop a graduate course for the National University of Singapore. “Co-op has been an amazing and diverse experience. I purposely wanted to try many things, not just the expected.”Sheryl says the proudest moment of her co-op experience came when she was working as a web administrator for Lug Life, a travel accessory company. During her time there, she initiated a number of projects to re-design and enhance their website.“I didn’t get to see all of my work and ideas carried out because my co-op term was ending but when I checked back later I saw that all of my initial ideas were being implemented.”In another work term, Sheryl was able to apply almost everything she had learned academically while working as a process engineering technician for Fluor, a multi-national engineering and construction firm. This role taught Sheryl how to work for a very large and established company. Sheryl also learned how to collaborate with other engineers and organizations on a multi-million dollar project which enhanced her project management, communication and teamwork skills.Some of the roles Sheryl has held throughout her co-op career may seem unconventional for a chemical engineering student, but this is exactly why the program is so great. Sheryl explained how her program teaches students to manage and prioritize large workloads and hasty deadlines. It has also taught her what she calls “a very practical way of thinking and problem solving”. This real-world application of skills, in conjunction with a strong educational background, is what allows chemical engineering students and grads to excel in any field. With her graduation on the horizon, Sheryl is thankful for her time at Waterloo and admits that her initial attraction to the university was its reputation for innovation and being the world leader in co-operative education.Sheryl admits that landing your first job is tough. “Co-op gets your foot in the door and gives you a way to prove that you can apply your knowledge in the workplace.” Co-op also offers students up to two years of work experience, which Sheryl thinks helps to alleviate the struggle of finding a job after graduation since most employers prefer practiced applicants.“By fourth-year, I quickly realized that I could do anything I wanted. This gave me a sense of empowerment – I felt prepared and I felt valuable.”Thanks to co-op, Sheryl has a clear picture of what her future has in store: either chemical process engineering or working with a startup to enhance their web presence. Sheryl’s story is a shining example of how chemical engineering students possess the skills that are desperately needed in the workplace. Employers of chemical engineering students can be sure that they have hired intelligent, hardworking individuals capable of problem solving, project management, and exceeding expectations.

Source: Thursday, October 22, 2015 | Daily Bulletin


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