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Getting higher education in CanadaIf you have decided to return to university or college as a full-time student, take advantage of your faculty’s co-operative education (or co-op) programs. Not just for immigrants, co-op programs are designed for any student who wants to acquire work experience before graduating.

According to the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education (CAFCE), the voice for post-secondary Co-operative Education in Canada, a co-op program is defined as a program that alternates periods of academic study with periods of work experience in appropriate fields of business, industry, government, social services and other.

Co-op programs at post-secondary institutions typically meet the following criteria.

1. Each work situation is developed and/or approved by the school as a suitable learning situation.

2. The student must be engaged in productive work rather than merely observing.

3. The student receives remuneration for the work performed (it is not an unpaid internship).

4. The student’s progress on the job is monitored by the school.

5. The student’s performance on the job is supervised and evaluated by the employer.

6. The time spent in periods of work experience must be at least 30 per cent of the time spent in academic study.

Such work experience gives graduates a competitive advantage when they finally leave school and enter the labour market.