|Peggy Jarvie heads a world-leading co-op program at UW|
|For a quarter of a century, the University of Waterloo has been ranked “Canada’s most innovative university”. In 2017, the school earned a place on an international list, when QS named it 24th on the global list of universities whose students are most likely to land a post-secondary career; a key element of that ranking was that UW scored 99.5 out of 100 in the category “workplace related partnerships with employers”
Another term for that – a phrase almost synonymous with UW’s reputation – is “co-op education.”
Peggy Jarvie is UW’s point person on co-op. She’s officially “Associate UW Provost, Co-operative and Experiential Education,” a new position she took on in February 2017. Prior to that, her title was “Executive Director, Co-operative Education and Career Action”, a job she held since 2005.
“If we didn’t have the top quality talent, both in terms of brains but also in the education
She describes her expanded role this way: “I lead a portfolio of units accountable for ensuring the growth of Waterloo’s global leadership in co-operative education and for strategically expanding and aligning Waterloo’s offerings in work integrated education, as well as for the delivery of career support and programming to all Waterloo students and alumni.”
Jarvie came to UW from Sun Life; she’s studied at three universities, doing her undergrad at the University of New Brunswick, and grad studies at both the University of California, Berkeley, and York University’s Schulich School of Business.
Co-op is both huge and historic at UW. Jarvie told Exchange, “We’re the biggest and in many ways the most successful in the world. Not just in Canada, or North America, but the world!”
But Jarvie argues that co-op is not the stand-alone draw; it’s part of a carefully designed mix of proactive policies that make UW such a success in attracting top students with entrepreneurial instincts.
She says, “People often say to me is that co-op is the driver of the institution. Co-op is intrinsically important to this institution, but it’s not just about co-op, it’s also about the Intellectual Property policy… The fact that we bring in some of the brightest students and have excellent academic programs, this is what enables us to expand as much as we can.”
But there is no doubt that UW’s co-op is a key element of that mix. She recently explained, “We’ve invested fully in co-op, we’ve invested in the extra teaching that is required in order to enable students to take classes 12 months of the year, or work 12 months of the year, so that our students are available to organizations to hire all year round.”
The size of the university’s CECA operations is a revealing measure of the important of co-op. Co-operative Education & Career Action has a staff of about 140 full- and part-time staff, working “to create employment opportunities and facilitate the employment process.” CECA liaises with students, employers, alumni, and the faculties and departments at UW.
UW is a leader in co-op in terms of size and impact; it has also always been a leader in terms of historic innovation. Jarvie points to a key innovation, six decades ago: “When the university was founded 60 years ago, a lot of universities thought co-op was not an acceptable practice for a post secondary institution.”
Jarvie believes that UW’s approach – including co-op, and the school’s IP policy – have been a major factor in the success of Waterloo region as a launching pad and eventual home base for the success of so many corporations. But she also believes that the successful businesses have been a key reason for UW’s growth and reputation. She calls it “a virtuous cycle”.
The economy has changed, everywhere, globally, and particularly in Canada. I’ve been talking about the war for talent for 20 years, but we’re really in a war for talent now
She points to how the two – town and gown – “blend so beautifully and work together so beautifully.” She’s convinced that those unique characteristics make co-op so successful in the area, attracting many from around the world. “It’s wonderful... it’s one of those virtuous cycles, that you don’t every often get a chance to really identify and work in.”
She adds, “If we didn’t have the top quality talent, both in terms of brains but also in the education students are getting ... I don’t think we would have anywhere near the amount of employers coming to us.”
Even circumstances that can initially seem to be negative can rebound into a positive, in such a nurturing environment, according to Jarvie. For example, she suggests that “part of the reason why we’re doing well is that Blackberry ... was shedding a lot of very good management people. These were people at a stage in their career, where they did not want to pull up stakes and move somewhere else… They didn’t leave, they stuck around and started to build small companies.”
But like her institution, Jarvie is not one to rest on her laurels. Change is always in the air, and UW – and its community – needs to continually adapt, she says. “The economy has changed, everywhere, globally, and particularly in Canada. I’ve been talking about the war for talent for 20 years, but we’re really in a war for talent now.”
“Companies are positioning themselves all over the world.” There is limitless demand for “skill, the highly qualified worker, the right talent in the right place.”
Not a Subscriber? Receive more business profiles
on meaningful people to you. Sent directly to your in box.