Co-Op: Information for Employers

The Co-op Program (SPPH 598) is a one-time paid work experience opportunity for our MSc project option students, typically from the beginning of May to the middle of August between their first and second academic years of study. Under the supervision of one or more worksite supervisors and a SPPH faculty advisor, students have the opportunity to apply their knowledge, develop professional competence and gain experience working as part of a team in a real-life setting.

Our School trains MSc students to become experts in identifying and evaluating the risks associated with physical, chemical and biological hazards in the workplace. Our students possess the skills and capacity to recommend and/or achieve changes that will eliminate or control such hazards.

The summer co-op placement is an official course (SPPH 598) which students are required to satisfactorily complete in order to graduate from our Masters program. The student is required to submit a written report and an oral presentation on their co-op placement which will be assessed for credit towards the student’s degree.

Examples of past project topics include:

  • Monitoring for chemical, physical, or ergonomic hazards
  • Evaluation of control systems
  • Exposure/risk assessment
  • Development and use of health & safety databases
  • Air quality surveys
  • Review of medical surveillance programs
  • Occupational health & safety program audits

Our SPPH laboratory is available to all co-op students; laboratory analyses are free of labour charges provided this is done by the student as part of the project. All other sample analyses will be charged at the UBC internal rate. Supplies used for analyses, whether done by students or by laboratory personnel, will be charged at direct cost only.

Co-op Placement Process

A mail-out will be sent November in the year prior to the summer co-op program inviting employer interest in participating in our program (please contact the Co-op coordinator to be added to our database). We request that interested organisations submit a job description to us, preferably by December 14. The job description should include the type of position, responsibilities, specific tasks, location of work, salary range and other relevant conditions.

In terms of salary, employers have found the skills and expertise of our Master’s students to be valuable, and in the past we have advised that co-op placements have a remuneration of at least $3,000/month. However in recent years, this understates the minimum typically offered by employers, now approximately $4,000/month. Some employers offer considerably more. Students weigh a number of factors in their consideration of co-op employers including salary, temporary living and relocation costs, interesting summer opportunities, and future employment prospects.

Student applications will be sent to the Co-op Coordinator which will then be forwarded to the relevant company contact. The co-op coordinator will schedule the interviews on behalf of the company at a location and time convenient for both the student and employer. The company must then rank the student's in order of preference. Students will also submit rankings of employers. Once all rankings have been completed, the Co-op Coordinator will match students to employers according to preferences.

When the company is happy with the proposed placement and it is confirmed, the company is required to send a Letter of Offer to the successful candidate. The letter should include starting and finishing dates, name of supervisor, location, hours, salary/benefits, and instructions on how the student should accept the employment offer. For a successful co-op term, employers should set learning objectives and outline their expectations early on, so the student, employer and SPPH are aware of each other's expectations and goals.

Note: We frequently receive more co-op positions than we have students so we are unable to guarantee that a student will be placed with your organisation.

Employer Expectations

The summer co-op placement is an official course (SPPH 598) which students are required to satisfactorily complete in order to graduate from the Masters program. The student must prepare a written and verbal report on their placement; both reports are evaluated for credit towards the degree. The employer must permit the student to disclose information (including technical information) from the placement during the student's presentation at the School of Population and Public Health. The report is intended to communicate, in a technical manner, to faculty, student colleagues, and to the employer what has been accomplished and learnt during the work placement relevant to the student's studies. You are more than welcome to attend the student's presentation at SPPH.

Employer Confidentiality

We understand that operational requirements of your business may involve a great deal of confidentiality in regards to technical data that our students may be involved with. It is a requirement that our students be able to present their findings and experiences of the co-op placement. In addition, our students may wish to present at external meetings/conferences.

Please ensure that any issues regarding confidentiality are discussed with the student as early as possible during the co-op placement. It is recommended that the student's workplace supervisor discuss with the student how the report will be written to clarify any disclosure of business practices. You may also contact the Co-op Director or the Co-op Coordinator for further information or if you have any concerns.

Please also see our co-op guidelines for students.

Employer FAQs

How does the process work? What is the timeline?

A mail-out will be sent to our database of employers in November in the year prior to the co-op placement. Employers will need to send a job description by December 15th to be included in the program. In January, students will send their applications to the Co-op Coordinator, which will then be forwarded to the employer. The Coordinator will then organise interviews as soon as is convenient to the employer (usually 1-3 weeks after the student application deadline).

After the interviews are complete, the employers & students will provide their ranking preferences to the Coordinator who will try to match the vacancies accordingly. Rankings should be received no later than 1 week after the interview. The employer is then presented with the proposed match and given final confirmation. This process should be completed by March 15. The employer is then responsible for composing a Letter of Offer to the student. It is recommended that the employer set their learning objectives and outline their expectations of the student early on in the placement.

What skills do your students possess?

After completing the first academic year of study, co-op students have usually completed the following core courses:

  • Principles of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
  • Topics in Environmental Health
  • Occupational and Environmental Toxicology
  • Industrial & Environmental Acoustics & Vibrations
  • Chemical & Biological Hazard Measurement
  • Quantitative Methods for the Assessment and Analysis of Exposure Data
  • Ergonomics or Safety

What benefits will there be to my company?

A dedicated graduate student will investigate problems or concerns identified by you, confidentially and professionally, and any workplace or environmental health and safety problems get addressed rather than deferred. You will also have access to faculty expertise and to industrial hygiene monitoring equipment, laboratory equipment and services for analysis of samples.

How many students will participate in the co-op program? Am I guaranteed a co-op student?

We have 2 streams of study in our Masters program, a Project option and a Thesis option. Only Project students participate in the summer co-op program. As it is the student who decides which path they would like to pursue, we are unable to predict how many students will participate in summer coops until January each year.

We often receive more vacancies than students, so although we do our best to accommodate student & employer preferences, not all employers are matched to a co-op student.

I've reviewed the student applications, how would I go about setting up interviews?

It is not necessary for the employer to set up the interviews, they should advise the Co-op Coordinator which students they would like to interview and the Coordinator will arrange the candidate interviews. Most employers choose to have telephone interviews, or interviews on-site at the School at UBC. We will endeavor to accommodate the needs of the employer.

I've interviewed the student and would like to offer him/her the position, how would I do this?

The Occupational and Environmental Hygiene Co-op program requires that students & employers partake in the ranking and matching process before placements are confirmed. We will attempt to best match a student as per your request but are unable to guarantee that you will get your most preferred student. We request that you refrain from offering a position directly to the student prior to the matching process.

What do I need to provide to the co-op student? Will I need to provide a salary?

Our co-op program is a paid work experience, with a minimum salary of $3,000/month. The employer is required to provide a workspace and cover other costs as required by the project (e.g. supplies, travel costs, etc).

Our SPPH laboratory is available to all co-op students; laboratory analyses are free of labour charges, provided the analyses are done by the student as part of the project. All other sample analyses will be charged at the UBC internal rate. Supplies used for analyses, whether done by students or by laboratory personnel, will be charged at direct cost only. Alternatively, you may use your own laboratory or any commercial laboratory of your choice.

I have concerns about company confidentiality, what will the student write the report on and who will have access to the report?

The Co-op program is a part of a graduate course which Project students need to complete in order to graduate. After the coop placement, students must prepare a comprehensive technical report that is submitted to the employer and the School, and is graded by School faculty. Students also give an oral and poster presentation at a special School seminar (which is open to the public). In addition, students occasionally present their findings to external conferences/meetings.

Any issues regarding confidentiality should be addressed as early as possible with the student. It is suggested that the workplace supervisor and student discuss early in the placement the format and content of the report with respect to disclosure of confidential information.

Do you know of any funding sources for employers?

Funding sources include Human Resources and Skills Development Canada's Canada Summer Jobs program. This is a wage-subsidy initiative that enables public, private and not-for-profit employers to create career-related summer jobs for secondary and post-secondary students.

The MITACS internship-funding program is open to graduate students or post-doctoral fellows from all disciplines. This program facilitates research projects involving the student, academic advisor and a non-academic partner.

Employers interested in an extended relationship about a project should note that Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Industrial Postgraduate Scholarship is a potential source of funding.

Questions:

Dr. Murray Hodgson, Co-op Co-Director
604 822 3073 / hodgson@mech.ubc.ca

Dr. Kay Teschke, Co-op Co-Director
604 822 2041 / kay.teschke@ubc.ca

Megan Wurster, Co-op Coordinator
604 822 2827 / spph.msc-oeh@ubc.ca