Manufacturing experience: bridging the gap between SMEs and co‑op students

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Manufacturing experience: bridging the gap between SMEs and co‑op students

Posted by Allison Auld on September 25, 2018 in Employer news, Student news

This month, Claudia Torres Pisco is not only heading back to class as a third year Industrial Engineering student, but she’s also getting started on a search for her first co-op job.

Originally from Lima, Peru, Claudia made the nearly 6,500 km move to Halifax just two years ago, deciding on Dalhousie because of its proximity to the ocean, its established Industrial Engineering program, and the co-op option.

“I chose to come to Halifax and Dal because it seemed like the place that offered the best experience. [Co-op is] a great opportunity to make connections with employers, and to get lots of different experiences.”

Keeping it local

Claudia hopes to land her first co-op work term locally, so she can continue to make Nova Scotia her home. Even though graduation is still a few years away, she plans to stay in Canada once she finishes her education. And, thanks to industry – university collaboration, she’s feeling even more optimistic about her future.

“I’ve heard that getting the first co-op job is generally harder, because we don’t have the work experience. ACOA’s support means the funding will come together and more employers will be able to hire. It makes me feel more optimistic. This will benefit both [the student and the employer].”

Looking beyond the resume

While she may lack the job experience on her resume, Claudia has full confidence in the skills that she brings from both the classroom and her many volunteer and extracurricular activities, including experience as an engineering society executive, a tutor with Dal’s Spanish department, Dal Lead conference volunteer, university social media ambassador, peer mentor and Model UN participant.

“I didn’t sleep much in my second year,” the newly-minted Residence Assistant admits when asked how she finds time to fit it all in. However, with the news that more industrial engineering opportunities are likely to be available for winter, she shares that she’s feeling better about jumping into her winter co-op job search, and the likelihood of finding work in the province.

Funding futures

Claudia’s positive experience has validated the co-op program and given way to new opportunities for future students. A new project with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), Emerging Now, will fund 48 co-op positions over a two-year span, enabling 16-20 Nova Scotia firms to benefit from having a student with fresh skills and perspectives.

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More about the Emerging Now Funding Program

Atlantic Canadian small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) require ongoing support from professionals like industrial engineers so they can maintain their competitive edge. However, SMEs don’t often engage the services of an industrial engineering professional for a variety of reasons, including unfamiliarity with the value that such a professional offers and the time and cost involved to make a hire. Many local businesses struggle to attract and retain skilled workers and to effectively motivate and recognize the needs of multiple generations in the workplace. Hiring a co-op student can prove that representation from all generations adds value, creates a more desirable workplace, and encourages employee retention.

In an effort to fill skill gaps and bring more innovation and efficiency to local businesses, ACOA and Dalhousie University have been exploring opportunities and methods to help SMEs and high-growth firms in Nova Scotia address productivity issues. Dalhousie University’s Industrial Engineering program trains students to design solutions to improve the organizational performance regarding people, technology and information. The students are educated in inventory management, production methodologies, continuous improvement, process mapping and design, facility layout, and quality and statistical analysis.

By collaborating on a new project called Emerging Now, ACOA and Dalhousie have afforded these students an opportunity to put their knowledge to work. This funding will allow qualified SMEs to hire Dal Industrial Engineering students with the intent to establish capacity and continuous improvement in their manufacturing and production efforts. The initiative is mutually beneficial as it supports Industrial Engineering co-op students with their required work experience while providing companies an opportunity to see the benefits of the position and build the internal capacity they need to scale-up and become globally competitive.

The application process will be facilitated through Dal’s Science, Information Technology, Engineering (SITE) co-op office on behalf of the Department of Industrial Engineering. Employer applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis with approvals executed as applications are processed.

Learn more or apply now to the Emerging Now funding program. Applications continue for 2019-20.