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It’s the start of a new year and for many post-secondary students, the start of a new phase of their education.

For those students lucky enough to secure a co-op position at a Kanata tech park business, they will find a level of collaboration and innovation that goes beyond the classroom. Beyond being gateways to real-world experience, students find coop programs successfully bridge academic learning with practical application.

They gain invaluable insights into the latest technological advancements, such as AI and 5G, and acquire hands-on experience in diverse fields ranging from software engineering and biochemistry at uOttawa to cognitive science and neuroscience at Carleton, to the applied, job-ready focus of Algonquin College in areas like cyber security and biotechnology. This exposure not only enhances their academic understanding but also prepares them for the demands of the modern workforce.

In return, the businesses in the Kanata tech park gain access to a pool of enthusiastic, skilled students, ready to infuse fresh perspectives and up-to-date knowledge into their operations. This is not just about filling immediate staffing needs; it’s an investment in cultivating future industry leaders. The involvement of these students in various roles, from technical positions to marketing and environmental health, drives innovation and growth within these companies, continuing to make Kanata’s tech park an educational partnership that fuels technological progress.

The breadth of student involvement across various fields of study is notable. uOttawa, for instance, reports approximately 500 work terms annually in Kanata, with students from diverse disciplines including finance, marketing, engineering, and even biochemistry. This diversity is echoed at Carleton University and Algonquin College, where fields range from cognitive science and neuroscience to business intelligence and cyber security.

From software and UI development to environmental health, marketing, and more, they are embedded in key operational areas of companies like Nokia, Ciena, and Trend Micro. This involvement provides them with hands-on experience in their respective fields, enabling them to apply classroom theory to real-world problems. Moreover, it’s an opportunity for students to contribute to cutting-edge projects happening everyday in the park.

“What we hear from our students time and time again is how amazing their experiences are in Kanata North. Not only are they exposed to but they’re contributing to projects involving the latest innovations in technology, from AI to 5G,” says Brent Moore, business development and partnerships specialist at uOttawa’s careers & co-op department. “In addition to working on and with the latest technologies, the opportunity to work with and interact with professionals in those domains is an invaluable experience and the networks they amass will aid them when they’re looking for fulltime work after graduation.”

For businesses, the cooperative programs provide a steady stream of eager, skilled talent, ready to contribute fresh perspectives and up-to-date knowledge. This setup is particularly advantageous for long-term talent acquisition strategies. Co-op programs allow companies to ‘try before they buy’, reducing the risks and costs associated with hiring new employees.

“Virtually every company in the tech park is hiring students to develop their talent pipeline. For example, in the past year Nokia has hired more than 20 co-op students from Algonquin College and they aren’t alone. Many organizations see the value of bringing in new talent to help run their operations,” says Matt Wheatley, Algonquin’s manager of external engagement and partnerships in the co-op and career centre. “Students bring a fresh perspective to the organization and will have the latest technology skill sets, so they can contribute to a company’s goals right away.”

While students from all three schools see advantages to various programs in the tech park, each institution brings its distinctive approach to cooperative education.

University of Ottawa: A multidisciplinary hub

uOttawa distinguishes itself with the sheer diversity of its cooperative programs. Hosting about 500 work terms a year, it offers placements in a wide array of fields, catering to a broad spectrum of industries within the tech park. This multidisciplinary approach benefits students by providing extensive career options and aids employers by offering a versatile talent pool. Furthermore, uOttawa’s emphasis on bilingual candidates positions its students favourably for integration into diverse teams, an attractive trait for global companies like Nokia and Ericsson. uOttawa reports that 95 per cent of its co-op students who secure a job post-graduation do so with a former co-op employer.

“Just as the programs of study vary, so do the jobs our students are performing at the companies they’re working for. We have students working with a variety of organizations, such as: Nokia, Natural Resources Canada, Solace, Ciena, Kinaxis, Stratford Group, KNBA, Ericsson, CISCO, WarnerBros.Discovery, TrendMicro and Marvell, just to name a few,” says Moore.

Carleton University: Focused on innovation and support

Carleton University’s cooperative program spotlights fields like cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience, aligning with the innovative character of Kanata’s tech companies. The school’s focus on cutting-edge sectors offers students the chance to be at the forefront of technological advances and participate in transformative projects. Employers benefit from accessing students who are not just technically adept but also bring fresh, innovative perspectives to problem-solving. Carleton’s emphasis on a supportive, people-oriented work culture is a boon for students and employers, fostering an environment conducive to professional growth and long-term employment relationships.

“Roles for students include web and software development, UI development, optical performance testing, research, environmental health and safety, project management support, human resources, accounting, and digital marketing,” says Rocio Alvarez, director of career services and co-operative education at Carleton University. “Carleton students are working at leading organizations in aerospace, communications technology, finance, cybersecurity, supply chain, software, and hardware.”

Algonquin College: Applied learning and industry readiness

Algonquin College stands out with its ‘learning by doing’ philosophy. Its cooperative programs, ranging from cyber security to biotechnology, emphasize practical, hands-on experience. The school says this approach ensures that students are job-ready and equipped with the latest technological skill sets, offering immediate value to employers. For companies, this translates to more efficient onboarding. Algonquin’s strong focus on applied learning also helps in building student confidence, ensuring they are well-prepared for the industry’s demands. Their high retention rates in companies like Nokia underscore the success of this approach.

“If there is a building in the Kanata Business Park with a sign on it, you can bet there are AC graduates working there. The College has been a part of the Ottawa landscape for over 55 years, and we have an extremely good reputation. The changemakers and decision makers within the tech park are often graduates themselves or have children studying at Algonquin College,” Wheatley says.

Making an impact on the park

Ottawa’s postsecondary institutions are shaping the future workforce of Ottawa’s Kanata tech park, each in their unique way. This diverse approach ensures that the tech park is not just a hub for technological innovation but a learning centre for comprehensive talent development, benefitting the entire tech ecosystem.

Many students transition from co-op placements to full-time positions post-graduation. Carleton University, uOttawa, and Algonquin College are key players in the growth and development of Kanata’s tech park. Their cooperative programs offer a win-win: providing students with invaluable work experience while enabling businesses to cultivate and harness local talent.

Businesses who would like to hire students at these co-op programs can find more information at HireLocal. In this initiative uOttawa, Carleton, Algonquin and LaCite joined forces with local partners the City of Ottawa, KNBA, Ottawa Board of Trade and Invest Ottawa to promote the availability of local talent.

Written by Melanie Coulson

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