Fuelling Passions and Propelling The Future of Engineering
Development and Innovation How one University gives engineering students an advantage in the job market with quality co-op and internship placements.
Founded in 2002, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) is one of Canada’s newest research universities and it strives to stand out as one of the most innovative. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the university’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, which offers its students a unique learning experience both in and outside of the classroom. Through high-calibre programs, a multitude of experiential learning options, and a technology-enriched learning environment, the engineering faculty is bestowing highly-skilled graduates upon the workforce.
Passion-fuelled work experience
The faculty offers niche programs such as mechatronics and nuclear engineering, but it’s the specialized programs that really stand out. “Our Automotive and Manufacturing Engineering programs are the only accredited programs of their kind in Canada,” says Anne Coulby, the university’s Co-op and Internship Officer. “Right now, we have one of the best employment rates for first-year graduates. I would attribute this to our niche program offerings — which show that students have a definitive interest in a specific industry — and to the quality of our Co-op and Internship placements. Employers want to hire graduates with experience.”
“The internship I did at Honda gave me the stepping stones and confidence to start my career,” says Natalie Prole, a graduate of UOIT’s Mechanical-Mechatronic Engineering Program who was hired at Honda after graduation. “We learn a lot of theory in school, but we don’t get a good understanding of how that translates in the actual working environment until we’re in the field. The internship gave me the opportunity to use critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”
Unique, high-tech opportunities
Rachel Illman, a third-year Engineering student, is another young woman drawn to UOIT because of their Mechatronics Engineering program. “I like robotics because there is so much potential,” says Illman. “We are only beginning to see what challenges automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics will help us overcome.” She completed an internship at Tesla, working in welding robotics in the fast-paced environment of the automaker’s California manufacturing plant. The Engineering Co-Op and Internship office strives to match students with companies that meet their aspirations, whether that be at a large international company or an innovative start-up.
"I got where I am today because of the people who helped me, so it only makes sense to pay it forward. I want to mentor the younger generation of women engineers."
– Natalie Prole, UOIT graduate
The faculty tries to offer a comprehensive experiential learning experience that gives students the opportunity to get involved with initiatives they are passionate about. Both Illman and Prole are interested in inspiring young women to pursue engineering, so they volunteered with the faculty’s Engineering Outreach Program, which runs free events for young women to explore the world of engineering and technology. “I got where I am today because of the people who helped me, so it only makes sense to pay it forward. I want to mentor the younger generation of women engineers,” says Prole. “It’s important to connect with people at different stages in their career and learn about all the different doors your education can open.”
Another instance of the faculty’s well rounded approach to experiential learning is the newly opened Jeffrey S. Boyce Engineering Innovation Studio, which is a collaborative design studio. The studio gives engineering students the tools, materials, and equipment needed to prototype their ideas and make them come to life.
The faculty supports the studio with funding, so students don’t have to pay for materials. If an idea doesn’t work out, they are encouraged to regroup and retool, which keeps them pushing and thinking outside of the box. “When we give our students the tools and opportunities to broaden their education outside of the classroom, it’s really inspiring to see the things they accomplish and the innovative ideas they come up with,” says Coulby. “That really is our main goal: to give students the tools they need to achieve their aspirations.”