UBC SLAIS Co-op Information Session

by Caroline Vandriel

On June 21, over a dozen information and special library professionals attended a CASLIS Ottawa information session to hear a presentation on the co-op program through the University of British Columbia. Julie Walchli, Director of the Co-operative Education Program at UBC spoke about the School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies (SLAIS) and how hiring a co-op student is beneficial to employers.

According to Walchli, the SLAIS program at UBC has doubled in the past ten years. One hundred and forty-five students are now enrolled in the program, thirty of whom are in the Master of Archival Studies (MAS) program. UBC has the only program that is specifically for Archival studies, and the program has be running for twenty-five years. Students graduating with an MAS are prepared not only for working with archives, but have the skills for records management as well.

The co-op program began in 2002. It runs three terms a year (January, May and September), with placements lasting between four and eight months. The process is not run on a ranking system, like the one used by many co-op programs including the one at the University of Western Ontario. Instead, postings begin three and a half months prior to the beginning of the job (for positions requiring more in-depth security checks, postings begin six months prior). The sooner an employer posts a position, the wider the pool of available applicants will be. Students apply through the school, which then forwards applications to the employer. The employer is given the opportunity to interview the applicants and make and offer. Students have about twenty-four hours to indicate their acceptance. The application process continues until all students are placed.

The benefits to employers are efficiency in future hiring via government bridging programs, and being able to hire skilled temporary employees for short-term project work. The employer does not have to be a professional librarian, and the expectations of employers of co-op students are no different than that of any other employee.

Co-op students Erin Hanlon and Jodi Peterson spoke of their current experiences working in Ottawa. They described their positions and duties, as well as how they are learning from the experience. The average age of a SLAIS student is thirty-four, which means many of the students have mortgages and families in BC. There are a number of students, however, who are willing to travel, and about 30% of the co-op placements require relocation. Students are required to locate their own accommodations, but occasionally the employer provides a travel stipend. All in all, co-operative programs are beneficial to both students and employers.

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