Miller uses co-op experience to shape future


Career choices do not come easily to most of us. Learning about your career in the classroom is one thing; learning about it in the work world is quite another. This is something Holly Miller found, and it is something that led her to change her career path entirely.

With a double major in French and English, Miller wondered what she could do with her degree.

"I talked to a U of L counsellor who suggested I talk to the people at the Co-op office," she explains. "So I asked them about the program and they totally sold me on it."

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Holly Miller worked four different co-op work terms during her time in the Arts & Science Co-operative Education Program.

Miller had initially thought that the Arts and Science Co-op program was only for students in the sciences, but when she learned that there were also jobs for students in the arts, she decided to participate in the program.

The Arts and Science Co-operative Education Program at the University of Lethbridge works to create a partnership between students, the University, and the employer, and allows for an extended learning environment as well as the ability to network with employers. Students can integrate academic semesters with work terms, and can apply skills learned in the classroom directly to the workplace and vice versa.

Miller completed her first work term at the Rocky Mountain House Museum as a museum assistant. She had a variety of responsibilities including interpreting, helping with activities and tours and taking inventory for an entire floor of the museum.

She then completed a second work term at the museum, which involved translating a variety of materials from English to French. Her main project was translating the life story of Henry Stelfox, who had important historical connections with the Native peoples of the area.

Next, Miller accepted a third work term at the Communications Security Establishment of Canada, which is a branch of the Department of Defence. The Communications Security Establishment gathers foreign intelligence and is an expert on secure technology. Miller worked again as a translator, this time translating and editing sensitive documents.

"Working at CSEC was such a unique experience," says Miller. "The most memorable part of the job was how respected Co-op students were; we were treated not just as temporary help but as an investment in the organization's future."

Miller then completed her fourth work term at the City of Edmonton's NextGen Initiative. The purpose of the NextGen Initiative is to represent the 18 to 40-year old demographic in Edmonton and to give them a voice in how to best develop the community to meet the needs of the next generation. Her position as a coordinator assistant helped with communications, marketing and the planning of meetings and events.

"I liked it better than translating," she says. "I like planning events and working with people. Before I started the Co-op program I thought for sure that I wanted to be a translator, but when I actually tried doing it I realized that it maybe wasn't the career for me, and that I preferred doing a variety of tasks, so now I've completely shifted directions in my career goals."

The skills Miller learned during her work terms are varied and valuable. She has learned about government operations and structure at both a federal and provincial level, how communications and marketing works, and she has learned the value of networking and making a good impression. According to Miller, the practical experience gained from the Co-op program is essential.

"Being in the workforce and seeing what it's like is really important," she emphasizes. "It's like a two-way interview – the company is seeing what you're like and you're seeing what the company is like. That can really shape your decision about what you want to do for a living."

Another benefit of the Co-op program is its flexibility. After four months of working at a company you often have the option of leaving or staying longer, or sometimes staying permanently. Miller views the Co-op program as a win-win situation.

"I don't understand why anyone wouldn't do it," she says. "I really can't say enough about it. It's just an amazing program."

For more information on the Co-op program, contact the Faculty of Arts and Science Applied Studies/Co-operative Education and Internships office at B610, or phone 403-329-2000.