Co-op Operative: What does co-op do, exactly?


During Frosh Week (or O-Week, as we call it at Laurier), I volunteered at the university’s Women’s Centre and promoted the centre’s services to the first years on campus.

One day, I was sitting in the centre with a second-year student and the topic of co-op came up. The student had applied for co-op and was granted an interview during the first week of classes. Upon discovering I was in co-op as well, she bombarded me with questions.

Although she was extremely excited about the opportunity to be in co-op, she had absolutely no idea what the program entailed and was panicking. I offered her as much advice as I could, but I realized that even as an experienced co-op student, I could not explain it effectively. This situation is not unique, which leads me to the question:

Why are students so desperate to be part of a program they know nothing about?

Co-op programs are generally highly competitive and respected in Canadian colleges and universities. Their reputation precedes them, which leads to many students, myself included, forcefully fighting to get into such programs and loudly boasting about their merits without questioning why the programs are so popular or what their merits are.

No one stops to ask,

“What is co-op? What does it do?”

After speaking with the second year student, I decided to do some research. After digging through the Laurier co-op website for an hour, I came to the conclusion that students’ lack of knowledge about co-op cannot be blamed on student ignorance; the language used to describe the program is annoyingly vague.

The website advertises the program as a “hands-on experience to complement academic studies” and “an opportunity to gain marketable skills” and says it allows students to “apply theory from class in a ‘real world’ environment.”

About the author

Jocelyn Smith is currently in her third year of a combined honours arts in communication studies and English, with a minor in women's studies, at Wilfrid Laurier University. She says the most rewarding experiences of her life have been volunteering at Laurier's Women's Centre, becoming involved in theatre and learning that there are people willing to read her writing. Her true loves are reading and writing and her career goal is to find a way to be paid to do both.