It is always so exciting for students and new graduates to get their first work opportunity in their field and see their education being used in real-world tasks and projects. While these young candidates have so much potential and skills at their disposal, it can be very difficult for them to gain this hands-on experience in their field and find opportunities to accelerate their growth and professional development through practical experience. At Giatec Scientific Inc., we understand this struggle all too well. We also know that, though students may lack experience, they bring so much value through their new ideas, perspectives, and enthusiasm. We must all do our part in developing the talent of tomorrow, and at Giatec, have been happy to do this through the introduction of our co-op program over 10 years ago.
Giatec is happy to offer our co-op students meaningful opportunities in over 7 fields, from software development to sales, giving them the chance to gain practical skills, valuable insights into their field, and have a better understanding of the tech and construction industry.
Co-op Program Evolution:
Giatec has been so fortunate to have worked with amazing and talented students over the years, and we are constantly working to evolve our program to better suit the needs of upcoming student cohorts. One way we are doing this is by reaching out to the students with surveys after their first and during their last week to better understand how they have felt about their onboarding and first impressions, as well as how they have felt about their co-op term in general (respectively). We gain valuable ideas and information through these surveys and try to implement as many suggestions as possible for the upcoming term.
From these surveys, we were able to see that 100% of our Summer 2021 co-op students found their co-op term with Giatec either Very Good or Excellent and 100% of our Fall 2021 Co-ops either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they were satisfied with their onboarding. While we love seeing those statistics, we know there is always room for improvement!
Building our students’ network:
Another way our Co-op program has evolved, with the help of our student suggestions, is by shifting some of the focus away from solely gaining experience and learning new skills. While this may sound counter-intuitive, we have learned from our students that some of the greatest takeaways from their co-op experience are the connections and networks they are able to build, both with other Giatec employees, as well as their fellow co-op cohort. To maximize these bonds, we have implemented many opportunities for our Co-op students to connect with other employees and each other.
One of our wonderful 8-month Sales Assistant Co-ops, Divij Seth, explained how the environment at Giatec lent itself to forming these networks:
“CO-OP is a great program for students to not only form connections with employers but with other students. With my exposure to Giatec’s work environment, I was able to connect with students in different programs and learn from their experiences as well. Weekly meetings and occasional outings were conducted by the HR team where all the students would talk about their week and be able to socialize.”
One of the opportunities that co-op students at Giatec receive to connect with each other is our Co-op Connects led by our Human Resources team. These sessions occur every week during our students’ first month and then shift to bi-weekly throughout the rest of our co-ops’ time with us. During these ten half-hour sessions, Students are led through check-ins, ice breakers, games, and trivia. The students are able to bond and have a better understanding of what students in other roles are getting up to. They are also able to learn from each others’ trials and tribulations and propose ideas and suggestions to each other.
Another opportunity that co-op students at Giatec receive to connect with each other is our newly implemented co-op event. Each co-op cohort, beginning with our Fall 2021 cohort, is given the chance to choose what kind of event they would like to have with their fellow co-op students. This could include bowling, axe throwing, tours of Ottawa, mini-golf, or any other ideas and preferences our students have. We know our students work extremely hard, so we want to hop at any chance to reward our students with fun experiences.
Co-ops are also included in all of our company-wide events that Giatec throws during their Co-op term. One of our amazing Software Development Co-op, Alexandra Le Neve, shared this about her experience being included in Giatec events:
“The company, consciously, makes a massive effort to ensure that their employees are looked after personally and professionally. Giatec makes you feel like you are part of their family, and they always seem to make the work fun. Sometimes they accomplish this by hosting fun events, such as Giatec’s 11th Birthday Celebration back in September. Aside from being an absolute blast, these events capture both our professional intellect as well as our personal.”
Co-op Onboarding process:
At Giatec, we want our students to feel as though they are fully integrated members of our team, with as many opportunities to develop as our full-time employees (with additional support to guide them through). Because of these standards, our co-op onboarding looks very similar to our normal onboarding process.
Our students have a packed first day. They begin with a presentation and Q&A given by Giatec’s CEO and co-founder, Pouria Ghods. Pouria is able to introduce himself to the students, talk about Giatec’s story and evolution over its 11 years, and give a high-level overview of the company’s mission, vision, and values.
Our students are then led through an orientation with Human Resources, where they are introduced to each other, Giatec’s corporate culture, the different teams at Giatec, Giatec’s policies, and all the information we believe they will need to thrive with Giatec. This is an informal orientation where students are encouraged to ask questions, discuss their past co-op experiences, get to know each other, and learn all things about Giatec.
Students also receive training during their first week on all Giatec’s products. Though not all our students will be working directly with our line of products, we believe it’s important that every student feels a connection to Giatec’s mission and what we are trying to accomplish together for our customers and the construction industry at large.
Students are also given the opportunity to participate in our virtual coffee program. This program, which began through necessity from the Covid-19 pandemic, has grown into one of our favorite initiatives for new employees. Each student is allowed to choose any three Giatec Employees, those who are not already on their direct team, to sit down and chat with. This allows our students to get to know some of our amazing employees and gain a deeper insight into the distinct roles that play a part in making Giatec function.
Growth and Development opportunities:
Co-op placements are an invaluable opportunity to take theoretical concepts learned in the classroom and see their real-life applications. Therefore, Giatec believes that it is important for our students to have a say in what they want to get out of their placement and the type of work that they would be interested in tackling.
One of our awesome 8-month Content Marketing assistant co-ops, Keya Shirali, explained the autonomy she was given in guiding what her work term would look like:
“I can’t help but recall one of the questions from my co-op interview, where I was asked if there was something new I would like to learn upon my potential placement at Giatec. I instantly replied with ‘Search Engine Optimization (SEO)’, for although I was aware of how ubiquitous it’s become in the digital marketing sphere, I lacked a substantial understanding of how it truly worked. Today, I am fortunate to say that for a few months now, I have been facilitating efforts to improve and advance our SEO. It has been one of the most formative learning curves for me, for which I have the Marketing department’s immensely valuable training styles and our team’s collaborative atmosphere to credit. For any new co-op in this position or otherwise, I would highly encourage taking initiative and immersing yourself into acquiring and developing new skills, especially since Giatec provides you with an atmosphere to be able to do so.”
Our Software Developer co-op, Alexandra, had this to say about gaining hands-on experience on Giatec’s product team:
“Despite being a coop student, I have been made to feel like I am a real member of the product development team. I have been given a tremendous amount of autonomy, but with enough support to ensure I am on the right track with my development while learning best practices for managing new software releases. This approach gives me a real sense of contribution to the organization while developing my skills in a way that formal classes simply cannot do.”
Giatec also believes in the importance of building on existing skills. When we have the opportunity to have a student for two consecutive terms or have them return for another work term with us, we are always excited to extend them new responsibilities and watch how they are able to expand their expertise and tackle new obstacles.
Divij, our Sales Assistant co-op, will be transitioning to a full-time role with Giatec once his co-op placement is finished. He explained how his role evolved when he joined Giatec for his second work term with us:
“I was given more responsibility right from the start of my second semester. I was responsible for the training of the new COOPs and the BDRs. This helped me increase my leadership skills, where I was able to help the new hires with their queries and help guide them.”
Looking to the future:
We have learned so much from our past students and are excited to continue to evolve and develop our Co-op program to ensure our students’ growth and development and that they are all provided with a positive and memorable experience!
One of the student suggestions that we will be implementing is the introduction of a Co-op welcome lunch. Depending on what restrictions are upon us at the time, we will be introducing an in-person or online welcome lunch during our students’ second week with us. This will allow our students to meet and socialize with each other in a casual and fun environment.
Another change is that we will be introducing a book club to our Co-op Connect rotation. Each term, all students will receive a book that we believe will speak to them all, no matter their field or role, and we will devote one session a month to discussing our thoughts and feelings regarding the content.
The last change that will be implemented for our next co-op cohort is that we will be holding a monthly speaking series with our leadership team. Three of our ten Co-op connects will include a member of Giatec’s leadership speaking to our students about their journey to Giatec, their role at Giatec, how their team and field function, and other interesting and important insights into their professional growth.
We are so looking forward to implementing these additional activities into our program and welcoming our newest cohort of students in January 2022!