If you think UVic’s Co-operative Education Program isn’t for Fine Arts students, it’s time to take five and think again.
With countless contacts in the publishing industry, the cultural and heritage sectors, and within municipal, provincial and federal governments, Co-op has helped many Fine Arts students find positions as publishing assistants, journalists, technical writers, archivists, assistant curators, musical and theatre event coordinators, research assistants, communication officers, interpretive guides and web designers—to name just a few of the ever-changing range of jobs out there.
Jen Kyffin is the Co-operative Education Program coordinator for the Fine Arts, Humanities and Professional Writing, and she is available to meet with each student to explore a range of possible job options. Better still, you don’t even have to head across campus, as she sets up shop in FIA 124 twice a week—2:00-4:30pm on Mondays, and 9:30am-noon Thursdays. (You can also reach her via email@example.com or 250-721-7629.)
Get paid, get credit
You’ve probably already heard the statistic that one in four UVic students engage in real-life learning through the Co-op program, and know that you can alternate terms in class with paid work terms in jobs related to your degrees—but it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Co-op is more for business or computer science students. Not so, says Kyffin.
“A good education combined with relevant ‘hands-on’ experience can help to launch any rewarding career,” she says. “I think this is particularly true for Fine Arts because, unlike engineering or business students, Fine Arts students—and their families—often wonder how they will make a living with their degree. Co-op gives Fine Arts students a chance to try a range of meaningful jobs. One job might be something a student has always wanted to do, while the next one might be something the student never dreamed of doing. Either way, students begin to apply their academic knowledge to potential career settings—they build marketable skills, make important contacts in their field and get a paycheck.”
Speaking of paychecks, how much can a Fine Arts co-op student expect to make? “Usually from $14 to $18 an hour,” says Kyffin. “Students on work terms also receive 4.5 units of credit from UVic—so they maintain their full-time student status while on the job.”
This is real life
Cash benefits aside, can Co-op really make a difference to the life and prospective career of a Fine Arts student? “Many students who participate in Co-op remark on the program’s positive impact on their personal and professional development,” says Kyffin. “I’m always struck by the level of competence among our Co-op students, especially those who complete multiple work terms.”
Just ask third-year Fine Arts student Tyler Laing. Currently a creative writing major pursuing a minor in professional writing, Laing knows what to expect from a cop-op position. “What I’m really going to gain is some solid, legitimate experience, something I can turn to and actually lean on when I’m trying to get a job in the ‘real’ world,” he says. Laing accepts that the odds are slim for “a mostly unpublished creative writing student to make money at writing directly after graduation,” and realizes that a co-op position isn’t going to give him a publishable manuscript. “But,” he points out, “co-op can help me land a gig in the field.”
During his first co-op placement in the summer of 2011, Laing worked as a communications intern for Citius Performance Corp. “This kind of position isn’t necessarily where I see myself in five years,” he admits, “but that experience directly translated to my getting a section editor job at the Martlet and a magazine editor position for Renegade Radio at CFUV. Who knows what gigs these jobs will help me get? But my experience from co-op has already made me a more attractive employee for when I do graduate.”
It’s a no-brainer
And, when it comes to staying ahead of the pack, Kyffin feels applying for a Co-op position is just a no-brainer. “Let’s face it,” she says, “it’s super-competitive after graduation—do you want to be the student with a degree and ‘server’ on your resume, or the one with the degree plus up to 20 months of experience and contacts in your field?”
What are the realities of the positions—should students expect to have to leave Victoria? “We post over 250 jobs for Fine Arts students for the summer term alone—and many of those are local jobs,” Kyffin explains. “But Co-op positions are available throughout BC, across Canada and internationally. You can take a work term in an urban centre or a rural community, but it’s always up to the student to decide where they want to go and which jobs they accept. But I do encourage everyone to stretch—try something new, do something creative or out of your comfort zone. It’s a safe way to push your professional development when there’s support from the Co-op office and our employers.”
But let’s say, as a student, that my area of specialty doesn’t exactly lend itself to an obvious position—acting, say, or music performance. Should I still consider Co-op? “Absolutely!” says an enthusiastic Kyffin. “It’s important to develop a wide range of competencies related to your specialty area. For example, artists need to know how to write grant proposals, and actors and musicians always benefit from knowing about fundraising and marketing.”
Ultimately, says Kyffin, Fine Arts students will always benefit from Co-op beyond their bank balance. “Co-op students gain a sense of what they want to do with their degree—and the skills and contacts to make those goals a reality.”