Andrew Hunt can speak to the value of co-op education. As a former Okanagan College student, Hunt’s career began with a Co-op placement, and after completing two Co-op terms with Metro Vancouver (then the Greater Vancouver Regional District), he was offered a job immediately after graduation.
As superintendent of the Iona Waste Water Treatment Plant in Richmond, B.C., Hunt is one of the many technologists and leaders assisting Metro Vancouver in providing treatment to wastewater for about 600,000 residents in Vancouver, UBC Endowment Lands and parts of Burnaby and Richmond.
“The co-op experience worked very well for me as someone looking to start out in the industry,” explains Hunt. “Now, I have the vantage point to see how beneficial the system is for the employer as well. We’ve hired quite a number of students from Okanagan College, and from other institutions, and it’s worked out very well for us,” he says. “We get a chance to tap into the cream of the crop of up and coming new technologists.”
One of those success stories is Drew DeFrias, who also hails from Hunt’s alma mater of Okanagan College. DeFrias was studying kinesiology a few years ago when a family member turned his attention to the career opportunities in the world of water and wastewater technology. The young Kamloops native switched gears and soon found himself in the two-year Water Engineering Technology (WET) diploma program at Okanagan College and working on co-op with Metro Vancouver at the Iona plant under the tutelage of none other than Andrew Hunt. After two successful co-ops, DeFrias was hired as a Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator I.
“My co-op experience was tremendous,” says DeFrias. “It was 100 per cent value—a real eye opener into how to excel in this field and hit the ground running.”
It’s a viewpoint shared by Hunt and many other experienced technologists who now find themselves in mentorship roles.
“We’re giving people life opportunities and they grab hold of them and gain so much from the experience,” says Hunt. “At the end of the day, it’s as much a win for us as it is for them.
“It’s incredibly important that we have a strong pool of talent to draw from, which is why we work with post-secondary institutions to provide feedback, keep the training highly relevant, and keep the co-op system working as well