First of all, you have to understand co-operative (co-op) education. Although many others would refer to our students as interns, co-op education is different from an internship – it combines alternating academic and work terms that result in the student graduating university with up to two years of relevant work experience as part of their degree requirement. At SAP Canada’s Waterloo Labs, the majority of our co-ops come to us from the University of Waterloo and both the University and SAP Canada understand the importance of bringing business and students together; students infusing us with new ideas, sharing leading edge research and providing real life work experience. This is not the stereotypical intern that makes coffee runs and does all the menial tasks for the team! In fact, the reason most students speak highly of their experience at SAP Canada is because they are treated as a full member of the team with all the
corresponding responsibilities and expectations.
Waterloo Labs averages approximately 100 – 120 co-op students each year and, with this program in place for over 30 years, we’ve influenced the careers of thousands of students! I have been on a plane, at a social event or in a customer meeting and often have people mention to me that they were once a co-op student at our office when they find out I am from SAP Waterloo. It makes you wonder what happens to all those thousands of co-ops that have come through our doors.
Although we don’t keep tabs of all our co-op students after they graduate, it would come as no surprise that many employees that we hire full-time have come from our co-op program. In addition, approximately 80% of our SAP Waterloo managers were co-op students at one time, so they know the importance of the program, the opportunity for potential, and bring the passion to develop these future leaders.
I also believe that the culture of SAP Waterloo is positively influenced by the co-op students. Co-op students working in our office often bond together – they organize social functions as well as take the lead on a number of site events such as a Remembrance Day pancake breakfast, a Halloween children’s event (all employee’s children are invited) as well as organize a winter coat drive. As a result, being a co-op student at SAP Waterloo often creates many friendships as well as benefitting their future professional network. I’m pleased to say that in my case, this proved especially beneficial since I met my wife while we were
both working as co-op students at SAP Waterloo!
Today the partnership between SAP Canada and co-operative education continues. While most of our engineering co-op students come to us from the University of Waterloo, the program has expanded and we also partner with the University of Guelph and Sir Wilfrid Laurier University. Although SAP Canada has been recognized a number of times by various universities as being co-op employer of the year, I am most proud when you speak to a former SAP co-op student who tells you that the best co-op work experience they ever had was when they worked at SAP Canada’s Waterloo Labs.
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