Niverviller Named Engineering Student of the Year

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Daniel Wiebe, Carolyn Geddert (Faculty of Engineering), and Brandy O'Reilly (Friends of Engineering). Daniel Wiebe

This spring, Niverville resident Daniel Wiebe will graduate from his engineering program at the University of Manitoba, and not only does he have a full-time job lined up and one of four required years of training already completed, but he’s also been named as the Co-op Student of the Year.

The award, which is worth $2,000, is granted every year to a student who participates in the faculty’s co-op program and demonstrates the value of real-world experience gained through a work placement. The funding for the award comes from an organization called the Friends of Engineering, comprised of Manitoba industry leaders who support the University of Manitoba’s engineering program.

When Wiebe entered the university to study civil engineering, he chose to opt into the co-operative education program. Co-op students complete paid work in engineering for periods of four or more months.

“You can do a co-op term any time throughout the year,” explains Wiebe, “although of course the busiest time is summer, because many students like to take classes during the school year and then do work experience in the summer. But you can do it anytime.”

Wiebe appreciated the flexibility that the co-op option allowed him. At one point he worked for a full year to gain extra work experience, but also to help out financially while his wife finished the last year of her teaching degree. 

Through his co-op terms, Wiebe has had the opportunity to work for three different companies, working in construction management and then water and wastewater programs. All told, he has 20 months of work experience before he even graduates. 

“Once I graduate, I’m an engineer in training for four years,” says Wiebe. “But I can apply up to a year of qualified pre-grad experience to that period, so I’ll only have three years before I become a professional engineer.”

Wiebe can’t imagine not choosing to take the co-op option in his program. Aside from getting a head start on the four-year training period, it’s a great way to gain a competitive edge as far as employment goes, he says.

“It can definitely be hard to find a job,” he adds. “But co-op is a great way to gain good references in the field, make connections, and even get a job.” 

It worked for him. At the end of his final co-op work term, his employer was impressed with Wiebe’s work and offered him a full-time job upon graduation.

For Wiebe, the ways the co-op program aided him are obvious. But he says that many people aren’t familiar with how co-ops work.

“When I was applying for jobs, I would advertise the program to people who maybe didn’t know what it was about,” Wiebe explains, adding that although the faculty of engineering has staff to help students find work placements, he still had to apply, interview, and be hired for co-op positions. “I think there’s a lack of awareness for a lot of employers. They don’t know that there is some flexibility to when and for how long you hire students, and they don’t know that they can apply for funding for a large percentage of the student’s wages. That’s where I try to help and raise awareness.”

It was a combination of his overall performance in his co-op placements, as well as these efforts to raise awareness about the benefits of co-op programs to potential employers, that landed Wiebe the Student of the Year award.

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