Victoria’s Schneider Electric is known for fostering a vibrant, healthy working environment, so it’s no surprise that the energy information technology company regularly taps into Victoria’s co-operative education programs. Since the mid 1990’s, Schneider has hired more than 200 co-op students from Camosun College and the University of Victoria—in fact, over 25 per cent of its technical staff are former co-op students.

“There’s a huge amount of investment that goes into hiring staff, so co-op is a great way for us to assess students early on as potential full-time employees” says Jacques van Campen, director of Victoria operations. By hiring through the UVic and Camosun co-op programs, the company has access to students from a variety of academic disciplines, including electrical, mechanical and computer engineering, business and communications. This means there are co-op students qualified to work with teams in engineering, manufacturing, marketing and sales.

Van Campen knows first hand that this system works—like many of his colleagues, he began working at Schneider Electric as a co-op student. After graduating from UVic’s bachelor of engineering program in 1988 he joined the company (then known as Power Measurement) full-time.

The company isn’t alone in recognizing the benefits of a Victoria co-op connection. The opportunity for career advancement, as well as Schneider’s vibrant, team-based company culture is exactly what many students are looking for. Camosun co-op student Aaron Philippsen found them to be an outstanding company to work for during his work term in the assembly department where he helped put together industrial power meters. “The people were great,” he says. “They provided a really good learning environment.” Schneider fulfilled Philippsen’s request to shadow the manufacturing automation group for a day, which inspired him to initiate a project of his own—he ended up designing a production jig for one of their production lines.

It is imperative for van Campen that co-op students like Philippsen have a positive experience, since co-op students are often hired-on permanently. “Co-op is a fantastic source of full-time permanent staff,” says van Campen, who continues to promote a team-based, collaborative environment for staff where co-op students are a welcomed and valued addition to the workplace. “Because universities and colleges are always adapting their curriculum to new technologies, co-op gives us access to new skills and methods all the time. It’s an opportunity for our business to tap into a new source of knowledge, and to find the best candidates for permanent employment.”

Greater Victoria’s co-operative education programs place nearly 3,500 skilled and motivated students each year. Co-op students can be hired to work on short- or long-term projects, and are available from a wide range of program areas.

To contact the UVic Co-op Program, visit http://mycoop.coop.uvic.ca or email employer@uvic.ca. For information about the Camosun College Co-op Program, visit www.camosun.bc.ca/coop or email co-op@camosun.bc.ca. For more information about Schneider Electric, visit www.schneider-electric.com.