“Here’s 50 million dollars. You’re responsible for spending it.” Terry Nguyen never imagined he would be given that level of responsibility when he took a job placement at a large energy company as part of the co-operative education stream of MacEwan University’s Bachelor of Commerce. As a Supply Chain Management major, he took on tasks like procurement and budget controls during his placement. “It was pretty daunting at first,” he says. “But then I realized this was the best opportunity to just dive right in and get some experience.”
Nguyen recognized that making the most of this experience would give him an advantage when it came time to look for a permanent job. “As a co-op student, you’re allowed to make mistakes. People are willing to help you because they understand you’re learning.”
MacEwan’s Bachelor of Commerce program provides many ways for students to get the critical real-world experience they need to launch their careers. For Nguyen, having co-op work placements under his belt helped him land his current job as a consultant. Even though this is technically his first permanent, professional job, he doesn’t see it as the beginning of his career. The way I see it is that your co-op placements are actually an opportunity to begin your career while you’re still in university. It’s a head start.”
While students in the co-op stream of the Bachelor of Commerce program go out into the workforce, students in other streams get hands-on experience right in the classroom. In one of Dr. Dianna Dempsey’s human resources classes, students are matched with community organizations like Boyle Street Community Services and Goodwill Industries of Alberta to create training solutions for real-life problems. Teams of students work with their partner organizations to design and develop workshops on everything from active listening and team building to supervisory skills in ways that align with each organization’s strategic priorities.
“As HR professionals of the future, it is imperative that the students learn to assess the needs of their partner organizations and translate those needs into a meaningful learning experience for training participants,” says Dempsey.
The Bachelor of Commerce program also sets students up for job success by providing flexible credential options, including the option of exiting the program with a diploma after two years. Many students who ultimately complete the degree take advantage of the diploma exit option to use what they've learned so far to get a job in a related field while continuing their degree studies.
That was Mhairi Twaddle’s approach. “Before attending MacEwan, I had been working in the agriculture industry and while I was gaining excellent experience, I found I had gaps in my knowledge so I wanted to find a university program that would address that,” she explains. “I also wanted to continue to work throughout university but was unsure if I wanted to commit to a four-year degree, so being able to get my Business Management Diploma after a couple of years was perfect for my situation.” During her first year of the diploma, she took an interest in supply chain management, and made the decision to continue with the Bachelor of Commerce so she could study it as a major.
Having a diploma in hand turned out to be a boon when she opted for the co-op stream of the Bachelor of Commerce, it helped her land a practicum placement. “The fact that I had completed my diploma already was a point of interest for the people interviewing me,” she says. “I believe it helped set me apart from other candidates.”
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