CECS Probes the Job Market

Kevin Liang - 1T Chemical
Posted on: November 17, 2010

Co-operative education was founded at this university in 1957 and has provided the world’s largest co-op program ever since. Ask any engineering student at Waterloo why they chose to attend the University of Waterloo and their answer would most likely be for the superior co-op education. The prospective students’ website boosts high employment rates of 95% and potential earnings between $25,000 and $74,000 by the time of graduation. In addition to the extra income, co-op students will receive invaluable experience in real world industries to better prepare them for the working world. Completing an engineering degree with a co-operative program will allow the student to gain a large advantage in the job market after graduation over non co-op equivalents.
Of course, this will only hold true if the student gets a job. After the recession that started in 2008, employment ratings took a small dive. CECS (Co-operative Education and Career Services) knew something had to be done. In the fall of 2009 and winter of 2010 the Dean of Engineering released grant funding to professors who would hire co-op students. The University of Waterloo became the largest employer of co-op students. Now that the recession is technically over co-op employment has made its return. But it is still unclear who is considered in the employment tally. The CECS website states that employed students are “students returning to previous employer + students who arranged own job + students matched through interviews.” From this definition employment also includes students on unpaid and volunteer work terms. CECS is in the process of getting rid of volunteer co-op jobs. There will no longer be unpaid jobs advertised on JobMine. However, there will be exceptions if the students find their own jobs. This includes working for a student team, such as Midnight Sun or UW Baja, and creating a start-up company. They are currently compiling a set of criteria for what exactly would qualify for co-op credit if the work is unpaid. CECS is eliminating volunteer jobs because they believe that the student would not be as motivated to work as paid counterparts and employers will be reluctant to assign more difficult tasks or longer hours. This will ultimately lead to the student gaining less experience during the co-op term.
Because of this decision there will be fewer job postings on JobMine in the future. Jobs are especially lacking for chemical engineering students. Currently, chemical engineering has the highest unemployment in all years for the winter 2011 work term. There are 39 chemical engineering jobs looking to be filled and 148 chemical engineering students still looking for employment. These statistics set off alarms at CECS. They keep a close eye on employment rate, especially if participation is required for graduation. CECS has developed an approach to use to improve the employment situation in struggling programs. This approach has four steps:
1. General market analysis (Probe employers, investigate industries, learn everything they can about the market for chemical engineering students)
2. Analyze and dig into CECS data regarding the job statistics for chemical engineering (Job fit ratio, programs competing against chemical engineering, other statistics)
3. Consult with the faculty to better understand the industries that professors research in, use networking contacts through faculty members, see if the faculty can get CECS more leads in industry
4. Develop action plans
They are currently at step 2 or 3, and hope to have developed action plans by the end of the term. This is the first time CECS has gone through this type of procedure. They hope to be able to complete this kind of analysis in 6-8 weeks in the future. CECS will be releasing their plans when they are finished. Their goal is to have 100% employment for all programs.
With the low number of chemical engineering co-op jobs and high number of chemical engineering students, the market seems to be supersaturated. However, based on market research conducted by CECS, they do not believe this type of statistic represents the job market after graduation.
CECS is devoted to meeting their 100% employment goal. They are attending conferences, gathering leads with employers who expressed interest and following up on each one. They are working hard to identify untapped industries that can employ chemical engineers.