Algonquin College Postgraduate GIS Certification Co-op
“Algonquin GIS Co-op is a Win-Win for Students and Employers”
Employers are taking the opportunity to evaluate potential future employees while contributing to the educational process. Students are gaining invaluable work experience at a key point in their career.
The GIS Graduate Certificate Program at Algonquin College in Ottawa has recently added an optional co-op term. Algonquin GIS students can now apply for an optional fourth semester co-op term in the September to December period. Currently into its second year of GIS co-op, Algonquin College is now lining up potential co-op employers and setting interviews to fill co-op positions for the September – December 2013 term. Private firms who employ co-op students benefit from a tax break worth up to $3,000 per student.
The GIS Graduate Certificate program is a one year, three semester program that teaches students various aspects of GIS, including GIS analysis, cartographic principles, programming, geodatabase management, remote sensing, and project management. To enter the program students must have a degree or diploma in a related field, but as GIS may be applied very widely, the backgrounds of Algonquin`s students are very diverse. GIS students who are interested must maintain a certain average during their program of studies and must apply and interview for the co-op position with other potential co-op students.
In the first year of co-op, Algonquin was able to provide co-op positions to all eligible students. The majority of the positions were with the Federal Government or Crown Corporations, but one position was with the City of Ottawa, and another with a private engineering firm. Co-op positions are not limited to the Ottawa region; Algonquin can set up co-ops in any location around the world.
Several of the Federal Government co-op positions led to post-co-op contracts, at a time of Federal Government downsizing. The City of Ottawa co-op position led to a contract position and the co-op position with the private engineering firm led to a permanent full time job where tasks are described by the student as:
The same as what I was doing during my co-op but also with a bit of added responsibility and I’ve taken over a project from my manager related to database information for a job that is updated weekly.
– Colleen Cranmer (Conestoga Rovers and Associates)
From the employer’s point of view, the co-op position allows a relatively risk-free means to evaluate potential employees. In many cases the Algonquin education ties directly into the co-op job, explain several co-op students:
At one point a co-worker asked if I had any experience coding in Python as she need a tool to automate a task. As I was familiar with creating tools (thanks to the Algonquin program) I was able find a solution for her which should make her job easier.
– Jeremy Winges (Environment Canada, Canadian Ice Service)
My main responsibility for the project was to create high quality maps with a common look and feel, which will improve on the various standards and quality of maps that were created for the original publications. This required me to draw from the concepts that I learned in my classes at Algonquin College last year, as designing good, easily understandable maps was one of the main goals of the project.
– Lindsay Short (Environment Canada, Meteorological Service of Canada)
Meticulous yet important things such as positioning of data, legends, scale bars, north arrows, and source information were enforced regularly on school assignments and have carried over into the workplace
– Colleen Cranmer (Conestoga Rovers and Associates)
From the co-op student’s point of view, the co-op experience introduces students to a broad range of technologies, allows the students to become comfortable with large scale projects involving extensive teamwork, and acquaints students with the some of the flavours of the workplace:
A co-op is not only a place for learning technical skills, but it also allows an individual to experience what it is like to become part of the workforce in their chosen profession.
– Jesse Morkis (City of Ottawa)
These projects are very interesting to be a part of because I get to see how my work contributes to the project as a whole, and how much coordination of all the different fields of environmental engineering is required to meet the needs of a client. As I continue on with the company past my co-op term I am excited of what is to come as GIS becomes more in demand and brings me new opportunities to learn while doing something I truly enjoy doing on a daily basis.
– Colleen Cranmer (CRA)
As Laine Wyman, the GIS Program Manager at the City of Ottawa and the employer of an Algonquin GIS Co-op student, said at the last GIS program Advisory Committee meeting, GIS Co-op is a win-win, for both the employer and the student.
For more information about the Algonquin GIS Co-op, please contact
David Hall, Co-op Consultant, Algonquin College
firstname.lastname@example.org 613-727-4724 ext 5930
Mike Ballard, Professor, GIS Graduate Certificate Program, Algonquin College
email@example.com 613-727-4723 ext 3458.