COVID-19 pandemic creating some uncertainty for co-op students and employers

Due to evolving COVID-19 pandemic, many co-op and Work Learn students are experiencing disruptions to their current and future work terms.

As UBC’s co-op programs adapt to the situation, there is some uncertainty as to whether employers will cancel or postpone work terms.

Cooperative Education and Work-Integrated Learning (CEWIL) President Cara Krezek, the organization that oversees co-op across Canadian universities, said the organization is trying to ensure students still receive work experience in these circumstances when many companies are asking staff to work from home or not come in at all.

“We can say with certainty that our members who are overseeing Co-op and WIL programs are doing everything they can to help students gain experience, keep Co-op work terms, provide resources and support to manage through this time of uncertainty,” wrote Krezek in an email to The Ubyssey.

This sentiment is echoed by Science Co-op in their online statement.

“Job postings and interview sign ups will remain the same and continue to be handled through SCOPE,” reads the statement.

In an email sent to co-op students, Sauder’s Business Career Centre, which hosts the Sauder’s co-op program, explained that some employers have withdrawn but many are still going ahead with hiring plans.

“So far, we have heard from 92 employers who have recently hired or are actively recruiting from UBC Sauder, and at this point, 77% of these employers are still planning to go ahead with their hires and summer hiring plans,” reads the email.

“It’s important to note that a majority of our hiring partners are still determining how they will proceed with these plans.”

Employers’ actions are not only affecting those looking for a job, but also those currently on their work terms. Third-year electrical engineering student Katie Seifert, who is working at an engineering consulting firm, explained the pandemic has caused uncertainty in her workplace.

“Myself and the other co-ops were informed that should the company be forced to close the office and transition to remote work, we would be laid off at least temporarily and would not be approved to work from home,” she said.

“Furthermore, we have been told that our return is dependent on if and when we have enough work to support having co-op students again. We now spend everyday wondering if it will be our last in the office.”

Meanwhile, third-year business and computer science student Adin Kwok has had a more positive experience as the software company officially started remote working on March 16.

“What I’ve enjoyed about the remote experience is the flexibility in my work schedule,” Kwok said. “Making a 9:30 a.m. meeting has never been easier: I roll out of bed at 9:20 AM, splash my face with cold water, put on a hat and a presentable shirt, then join the Zoom video meeting. Work itself has also been as challenging and rewarding as it was in-office.”

In regards to Work Learn, UBC explained in an online statement that they are still committed to paying students and will transition to remote work where possible.

“The Public Sector Employers’ Council Secretariat has provided direction to the University to maintain compensation and employment continuity for all employees, in the immediate term of March and April, whose work would not have otherwise been interrupted, except for the pandemic response,” reads the statement.

Third-year political science major and current Work Learn student Haley Magrill said that she has received ample support in her current job.

“It is odd working from home and I have struggled to find a work/study balance because everything seems to be muddled together now. I want to stress that my bosses have been incredibly helpful and flexible with my work hours during this time.”