AIMS Senegal hosted a two-day interactive workshop on cooperative education on 16-17 May 2018. Developed under the Skills for Employability (SFE) project, supported by Global Affairs Canada and the MasterCard Foundation, this collaborative initiative compliments the existing cooperative education program and aims to increase the transition to employment among STEM students (especially women) across Francophone Africa.
The workshop was led by the director of the University of Waterloo’s Professional Development Program (Anne Fannon) and the director of the University of Ottawa’s Cooperative Education Department (Gaby St-Pierre). AIMS staff, industry partners and stakeholders were exposed to best practices and innovative approaches to cooperative education. The contribution of the Canadian co-op leaders helped nurture insightful discussions on strategies and procedures relating to current approaches in cooperative education, entrepreneurship and advance new models for student success.
Anne Fannon underscored: “It was a true pleasure to participate in the AIMS Senegal workshop. The seminar brought together a broad spectrum of stakeholders from across the AIMS network to investigate various aspects of the program ranging from student recruitment to professional development. Since co-op education is a partnership between post-secondary institutions and industry stakeholders, it was particularly helpful to have Senegalese employers participate in our workshops. Their insight and perspectives were invaluable.”
Furthermore, the venue provided a unique opportunity to deepen and expand the existing partnership between AIMS and its Canadian university partners. As a result, AIMS co-op staff gained new operational space in the form of a mentorship program with the University of Waterloo and the University of Ottawa. AIMS is leading the way in the development of Africa’s first accredited co-op program. By working together, participants were able to map out challenges and seek out opportunities for improving the AIMS co-op program.
Gaby St-Pierre stressed the University of Ottawa’s long-standing partnership with AIMS Senegal and his active role in the creation of the AIMS co-op program since 2014. He noted: “Participating in the workshop made me realize how well the program is structured and how devoted and passionate the staff and employers are. There is great potential to grow the offering of the co-op model in Africa. After four years in operation it is time to make minor adjustments in order to meet the growth objectives that were established. A strong employer base and financial participation from employers will be key success factors.”
Finally, Fannon and St-Pierre underscored: “Over the course of our two days together, we were able to identify a number of recommendations that we believe will strengthen the AIMS co-operative education program in the years ahead. There is great potential for co-operative education in Africa, but we must determine how best practices that work in Canada translate into different African contexts. We started to answer some of these questions at our first round of workshops and I look forward to continuing our work together in the months and years ahead.”