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$9 million in new funds for co-op and internship placements

By Luis Armando Sanchez Diaz, February 21 2021—

Last month the University of Calgary announced new funding available for different co-op and internship placements for external employers as part of the Student Work Placement Program (SWPP).

According to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) the program aims to provide post-secondary students across the country with the opportunity to have “paid work experience related to their field of study.”

A UCalgary news article welcomed the funding, noting that it comes at a time when “both students and employers find themselves navigating challenging economic conditions.” These challenging conditions were brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic which is impacting the student population in Alberta and across Canada. 

The program intends to subsidize 75 per cent of Alberta’s minimum wage “up to a maximum of $7,500 in funding per co-op student.”

The new funding will be provided by the EDSC but will be administered instead by Magnet, a U of C partner organization. The article noted that Magnet “is a digital social innovation platform, founded at Ryerson University,” and has the mission of “accelerate[ting] inclusive economic growth for all in Canada by advancing careers, businesses and communities.”

In a conversation with the Gauntlet, Erin Kaipainen, senior specialist, experiential learning at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning noted that during a meeting of the General Faculties Council in 2019, a new strategy regarding experiential learning was adopted. 

“It’s an institutional plan for five years to make experiential learning a critical part of the university of Calgary experience, whether you’re an undergraduate student or a graduate student,” said Kaipainen. She also also highlighted that it is “one of the things that differentiates our plan from other institutions in Canada.”

Kaipainen expressed that this type of program is meaningful and significant for the professional development of students. 

“Students are working, they’re getting academic credit, they’re engaging in experiential learning in a work setting and developing skills that are relevant to their future careers.” Students are, “making connections between their fields of study or intended career path and ‘the real world,'” she continues. 

She commented that the current process for co-op and internship placements won’t change due to the ongoing pandemic. And proceeded by stating that the funding is specific “to external employers who hire UCalgary students.” 

Kaipainen emphasized that the funding is not yet available for international students and that further advocacy is needed, as gaining these skills are very important for any student regardless of their citizenship, “to advance their careers.”

During the conversation it was also noted that the new funding was obtained at a time when an alignment between the federal and provincial governments as well as at the institutional level plans, exist. 

“This funding is coming at a really important time when federally, provincially and institutionally we want to make experiential and work integrated learning be a key part of the University of Calgary experience,” Kaipainen finalized. 

Employers can access the SWPP to fund co-op and internships placement currently occupied or soon-to-be created positions during Winter 2020, from Jan. 4 – April 30. 

More information about eligibility, important dates and deadlines, as well as general information and resources can be found online.

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