Each year, more than 950 Vancouver Island businesses and organizations provide over 1,300 UVic students with hands-on learning experience through UVic’s Co-operative Education Programs.

That kind of support has helped make UVic a national leader in co-operative education, which enables highly motivated students to alternate academic terms with paid, relevant work experience, while providing employers with the assistance of bright students exposed to the most recent developments in their field.

Several leading island businesses have relied on the contribution of co-op students over the years. One such business is Etraffic Solutions, which builds and produces unique online learning resources including animation, workbooks and online gaming for government, business and education.

Since 2002, Etraffic Solutions has hired seven UVic co-op students, including computer engineering student Paul Reimer. Over the past four months the aspiring computer hardware designer has been gaining hands-on experience at the company as a web application developer.

“The things I learned here in a week are things it would take a month to learn in a class,” says Reimer. Many of his projects have involved creating more manageable, interactive website interfaces for high profile companies such as PacificSport, which provides support to Canada’s athletes for the 2010 Olympics.

But the technical learning has only been one facet of the experience. Equally important has been finding out how the company ticks. When Reimer suggested modifying Etraffic's project management reporting process, he learned how to find the right people to speak with and started attending meetings to bring his ideas to the table. “Working for an organization like Etraffic gives you the chance to take initiative and see results, something that isn’t necessarily possible in a classroom setting,” he says.

Reimer's supervisor, Andrew Christoffersen is equally enthusiastic about the co-op experience. “Paul takes the initiative to see how new technologies can be used – he's not content to say, ‘that's the way we’ve always done things,” says Christoffersen, Etraffic’s manager of development. “The experience has really been win-win for us both.”