ECO Canada Internship Program Helps Waterloo Architecture Grad Land Her Dream Environmental Job

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While Kimchi Ho was a student in the University of Waterloo’s architecture program, she continuously added to her experience by completing more than a half a dozen internships with a variety of firms.

But when she graduated in August 2010, she specifically wanted to work for one particular architecture firm that integrates sustainability in everything it does.

“The ECO Canada internship was integral to the success of securing this job opportunity as it provided financial support for me to take on what would have been an unrealistic position with the employer.”
Kimchi Ho, University of Waterloo architecture graduate

The 24-year-old was drawn to the very small Waterloo-based sustainable design firm Whiting Design because of the owner’s outlook on sustainable building and design, and the company’s commitment to innovative green design, but she knew it wasn’t realistic for the company to take on an inexperienced intern like her out of the blue.

She had heard about the ECO Canada internship program through a friend and, after doing some research online, learned that she could be eligible for a wage subsidy of up to $12,000 to ease the small company’s burden of taking on a new grad employee.

She applied to be pre-approved for the internship funding through ECO Canada, which is a resource for environmental employment, and the rest is history! She’s been working for Whiting Design as a Senior Sustainable Designer since September 2010, and generously agreed to share her experience with the ECO Canada internship program below.

Q.What do you do in your current job?
A. I love my job! The people are great and the work is meaningful. I’m currently working on a few sustainable residential and commercial projects ranging in various scales and budgets.

Everyday I’m working directly with the design principal and actively involved in the design and administrative aspects of the architectural profession. I’m learning lots about each client’s needs and I have the privilege to be in direct communication with them – this is so critical to good thoughtful design work!

The daily grind varies but mainly consists of creating architectural drawings and eco-related research as it pertains to current projects on hand. The most challenging part of this opportunity is that everyday is something new and you’ve got to roll with whatever happens each day. The skills acquired have been absolutely invaluable.

Q.What made you choose to apply for an ECO Canada internship program? And how did you find out about it?
A. I chose to apply for the ECO Canada internship program primarily because the values of the program directly line up with my own. I wanted an employer who believed in fully integrated learning in all aspects of the field. I wanted to take mentoring seriously and learn as much as I could. I wanted to tap into a niche industry that is critical to a sustainable way of living.

I found out about the internship program via friends and a quick Internet search. The ECO Canada internship was able to realize my interests while allowing me the financial and career support to work with an employer that shared the same ideas.

Q.What was the application and approval process like?
A. The application and approval process was very straight forward. Throughout the administrative process, I always had the opportunity to speak to the Internship Program Co-ordinator whenever I needed. She was and continues to be approachable and extremely supportive of ideas brought forward to strengthen the internship experience.

Q.How did you determine which employer you wanted to work for? How did you convince them to take you on as an intern?
A. The sustainable route with respect to the architecture profession is a niche market. My employer fully integrates sustainability as a lifestyle, a realistic way of thinking and living. I knew that those core values were critical to my happiness and success at the firm and didn’t think twice about where to apply when looking for a full time opportunity.

I highlighted my skills and how they could be used at the office and pointed out areas for development that the office could provide for me in my interview. The ECO Canada internship was integral to the success of securing this job opportunity as it provided financial support for me to take on what would have been an unrealistic position with the employer.

Q.You’ve completed a lot of internships. How was this one different or special?
A. Yes, I have completed many internships in various places both at small and large, and private and public sector firms. This opportunity is unique because of the scale of the office. It’s structured so that mentorship can truly be realized as the scope of work allows me to be direct conversation with the principal and clients alike. This level of relationship is so integral to project success and is rarely experienced in junior level positions.

Q.How will this internship help you advance your career?
A. This internship will immensely advance my career because of the invaluable experiences gained from working directly with a leading expert in the area of sustainable architecture. I’ve learned not only technical skills but continue to find myself understanding, relating, and communicating better with clients and consultants alike.

Internships are vital to the success of each respective industry as it gives recent grads a chance to be fully integrated into the sector and learn from industry leaders. Evidently these leaders and their experiences become yours as well. It is a great mentorship opportunity, especially in an emerging industry like the environmental profession.

Q.Is there anything you think we should know about ECO Canada, its internship programs, or environmental careers in general?
A. ECO Canada and its internship program is an excellent resource to connect employers to a younger, educated group of graduates who are driven to contribute to growing environmentally-related industries. Moreover, it pushes grads to practice skills in an applied setting while opening employers to a new generation of innovative resources.  The program bridges generation gaps with innovation and expertise. Without out the internship program, many job opportunities would not be possible for young, enthusiastic recent grads.

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About the author

Cassandra Jowett is TalentEgg's Content Manager. She joined the team as a student intern in the summer of 2008, and since then her heart has never really left the Egg Carton. Cassandra is a recent graduate of the Ryerson University School of Journalism, where she earned a Bachelor of Journalism with a focus in writing and editing for newspapers. She has also written and edited for The Globe and Mail, The National Post, t.o.night newspaper and other publications.