From theoretical study to working in the real world

After co-op student Fazlu Jafarulla completed his second year of aerospace engineering studies at Carleton, he struggled to find his first summer work placement. Hailing from an “arts” family, Jafarulla wasn’t even certain if engineering was the right choice for him.

But last May, that all changed when the third-year undergrad got a job as an innovation engineer at the National Research Council Canada’s Centre for Surface Transportation Technology (CSTT), a self-supporting business unit that provides world-class development and testing services for rail and road transport industries and vehicle manufacturers.

“I learned not so much how the rail industry works, but how an engineering firm functions. I know this is what I want to do now that I’ve had experience in an environment I’ll eventually be working in. My once fuzzy career path has become a lot clearer,” says Jafarulla, 21, who spent four months researching feasible wireless communications for railway cars.

In fact, Jafarulla was one of the last co-operative education students placed last spring and he recalls that: “My co-ordinator didn’t give up on me until I got a job. I don’t think they could have worked any harder. The resumé reviewing service is an immensely valuable tool. Through the able guidance of professionals, I was able to craft a very effective resumé.”

Jafarulla is one of more than 1,000 Carleton students in more than 80 undergraduate and four graduate level programs supported every year with co-op work placements into their field of study by the university’s on-campus centralized career centre, the Career Development and Co-operative Education Office (CDCE).

The CDCE helps students and alumni achieve their aspirations and prepare to launch fulfilling careers through counselling, skills workshops, career and education fairs and a mentorship program that connects students with alumni and schedules talks by industry experts.

Twenty-two-year-old Mustafa Popalzai, a fourth-year law student, has taken advantage of CDCE’s resources from his first “confusing” year at Carleton.

“I used to drop in once a week to look at books and international job postings. I completely reformatted my resume, learned how to network and other everyday skills.”

CDCE director Dawn Legault says the centre provides some 310 hours of workshop programming, from career decision-making and resumé and cover letter preparation to communicating in the workplace and psychometric testing.
Professional information evenings – “So you Want to Be a Doctor,” for example – have attracted a growing number of students over the past eight years, and career fairs are now held three times a year in the fall, winter and spring.

“Over the last three years, the demand by employers wanting to come to campus to recruit has grown astronomically,” says Legault. “There is a growing appreciation of what students can bring to the workplace and some employers are putting together great opportunities.”

In spite of the economic downturn, employers have nearly doubled the number of postings since this time last year. At the beginning of this year, more than 200 co-op jobs were posted compared to a little more than 100 last year. And the number of full-time or contract new graduate jobs posted has grown by 63 per cent to nearly 500.

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Susan Hickman

By Susan Hickman

For nearly four decades, journalist Susan Hickman has written about every imaginable subject for sundry newspapers and magazines in Canada and abroad, as well as for CBC TV and CBC Radio. She has also managed various publications, including academic newspapers and technology magazines, and was recently commissioned to write a guide for foreign missions serving in Canada. Currently, she is working on a couple of personal memoirs.

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