Co-operative Education Programs

Co-op programs provide students with the opportunity to integrate their classroom learning with hands-on work experience related to their field of study in which they alternate periods of paid, full-time, supervised work experiences with their academic terms.

According to the Canadian Association for Cooperative Education (CAFCE; http://www.cafce.ca/en/coop-defined), a co-op program is one which alternates periods of academic study with periods of work experience in accordance with the following criteria:

  • Each work term is developed in partnership with the employer and approved by the co- operative education program as a suitable learning environment;
  • The student is engaged in productive work for which the student receives remuneration;
  • The co-op curriculum supports student learning goals, personal evaluation and reflection;
  • The student's performance in the workplace is supervised and evaluated by the student's employer;
  • The student's progress during their work term is monitored by the co-operative education program;
  • Both work and academic terms are full-time and follow a formalized sequence. The total amount of co-op work experience is normally at least 30% of the time spent in academic study. For programs of two years or less the total amount may be a minimum of 25%. A work term is defined as a minimum of 12 weeks and/or 420 hours full-time paid experience;
  • Co-op Programs begin and end on an academic term;
  • The student completing multiple work terms is normally exposed to the work environment during more than one season of the year.

Co-operative education programs can be either for-credit or zero-credit endeavours, and are generally noted on the transcript and degree. Co-operative student positions are most often 4 to 8 months in duration, with a commitment of 12-16 months in total over the course of the degree. Given the alternating nature of work and study terms, co-operative education programs tend, in most cases, to necessitate alignment with a trimester system.

Key Features


How do students engage in EE?

Students engage in work activities where they practice the discipline or course specific competencies and skills in an authentic work context.

To what extent are community partners engaged/involved?

The work experience requires some form of learning agreement that is shared by the partner organization, the faculty supervisor and the student. The student's work progress is monitored by York University and work performance is supervised and evaluated by the partner organization.

Is priority given to student learning outcomes or community partner needs?

Supervised work is structured so that it benefits both student learning and the partner organization.

How long and how frequently do these experiences occur?

Co-op work terms typically take place after a student’s second year of study for 4-8 months of consecutive work with a commitment of 12-16 months in total over the course of the degree (or 30% of time spent in academic study).  Students alternate periods of academic study with periods of work experience.

How are students remunerated?

Co-operative education programs can be either for-credit or zero-credit endeavours, and are generally noted on the transcript and degree.  Co-ops are typically paid work experiences.

Course Example


Lassonde School of Engineering

Lassonde's co-op program will comprise at least four months of work before third year, and a continuous period of at least eight months after third year, for a total of 16 months. Students will receive career skills workshops in preparation for their jobs, on-the-job evaluation by work managers and university staff, and grading of work reports by academic staff. In keeping with Lassonde's focus on entrepreneurship, student entrepreneurs can do co-op at their own start-up companies. All engineering programs at Lassonde will be Co-op. The first co-op work term will take place in summer 2015.

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