Every year, the Mount offers hundreds of co-op students the opportunity to participate in work-integrated learning (WIL) “which formally and intentionally integrates a student’s academic studies within a workplace or practice setting” and encourages “the development of learning outcomes related to employability, personal agency and life-long learning” according to Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL Canada).
As Assistant Professor of Tourism and Hospitality Management Paulette Cormier-MacBurnie explains, this is beneficial because “work experience in your area of study allows you to develop a deeper understanding of the theoretical concepts discussed in class.”
Where there’s WIL there’s a way to learn
While work terms might be the most obvious form of WIL that a co-op student will experience, there are many other ways our programs provide learning opportunities related to career development.
For example, students in the tourism and hospitality program are given several opportunities to visit tourism related businesses in Halifax and the Annapolis Valley as part of their studies, allowing them to network with local tourism employers, experience their products firsthand, and learn about the businesses’ impact on the tourism industry in Nova Scotia. In addition, there is Vincent’s Restaurant, an on-campus teaching kitchen where students have the opportunity to practice their food preparation and service skills in a practical environment.
“So much learning occurs in this space!” Paulette says. “These courses provide hands-on experiences that will directly benefit you in the workplace. You will learn how to work in a commercial kitchen and obtain certification in industry related programs. You will learn to develop training programs, prepare food, serve customers, and manage your production and service teams in Vincent’s. The experiences gained from these labs creates transferrable skills applicable to all sectors in the tourism industry.”
A symbiotic learning environment
By mixing theory and practice, students gain a well-rounded education. As Paulette notes, even before your first work term the Mount will provide you with opportunities to hone your professional skills.
“So much can be learned in the classroom and in lab work that can help you in the workplace. The importance of deadlines, how to communicate with others to get the job done, the art of persuasion and negotiation, leadership and problem-solving skills, and the ability to think critically about situations.”
When students return from their work terms, they also bring new insights back into the classroom. “It is exciting to talk to students and learn about their experiences on the job,” Paulette says. “These experiences are often used as discussion points in the classroom when covering theoretical content. It is enriching for all students to hear their peers connecting theoretical concepts to workplace learning.”
So don’t be afraid to maximize every opportunity you are given to engage with new ideas and your industry of choice. What you learn on your work terms can give you an experiential framework to better grasp the concepts learned in the classroom, and what you learn in your academic studies can provide you with best practices and new approaches which may be very beneficial to your co-op employer. Together, co-op and the classroom provide a symbiotic learning environment that benefits all students and gives you a solid foundation of knowledge and experience to build on after graduation.