COVID-19 & Co-op: Work Integrated Learning Through ICTC

Over the last few months, the Government of Canada has announced new programs and policies to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. One of those announcements included changes to the funding structures that already existed to support the hiring of students in the Co-op program. Specifically, eligibility requirements were relaxed to allow faculty and researchers to use the subsidies once available only to businesses to support hiring students.

While it has taken a bit of work to sort the application process, I am excited to welcome the first 4 co-op students to our lab:

Joyce Li is an Engineering Systems and Computer student who is passionate about software. She spends much of her spare time working on side projects and exploring nature. Joyce applied for co-op because she wants to learn as much as she can.

Danyal Mahmood is a Computer Engineering student. He’s interested in all aspects of computer technology. When he’s not studying, he’ll either be at the gym, reading about AI, the NBA, or developments in the field of gaming. “Co-op provides a way for me to give back the knowledge and skills that I learn throughout my degree, while also learning along the way.”

Waqas Bakht is a Software Engineering student who has a huge interest in algorithms and math-related computer science concepts. Between work and gaming, he’s pretty busy outside of school. “The Co-op program is a good way to set expectations when you actually graduate. Also, you get to meet and work with some great people and get to show your skills that have been picked up at school.”

Daniel Mil is a Computer Engineering student who likes to solve problems with software. When he’s not studying, he’s probably coding, playing soccer, or visiting with his friends. He is in Co-op because of the experience it provides. “Learning in a classroom is one thing, but the most learning I’ve done through university has been on my co-op terms.”

Funded through the Work Integrated Learning Digital Subsidy offered through the Internet Communications and Technology Council of Canada via the Government of Canada’s Student Work Placement Program1, the students will spend the next 10 to 12 weeks working full time with an interdisciplinary team of undergraduate, graduate, staff, and faculty researchers on several different projects.

The students will support a variety of projects, ranging from modelling the impacts of mitigation measures given a second pandemic wave of COVID-19 this fall (and plausible scenarios of our future), to evaluating public health interventions on social media using sentiment analysis, to helping scope and design a single-use plastics tool to support proper recycling.

Welcome to the team, folks!

While this is a short term change to the program (as far as I know), I’m hopeful that the Government will make this a permanent part of the Work Integrated Learning Subsidy program. There are many undergraduate students who want on the job training in research, and this is a perfect opportunity to provide that. It also allows faculty to stretch our often small research pots to train more students.

1 ICTC provides subsidies of 50% to 70% (up to $5000 or $7000, respectively) depending on the student. Check out their website for more details.


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