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Co-op Program Directory

The Co-operative Education Directory is a comprehensive listing of the post-secondary co-operative education programs of member institutions in Canada.




CAFCE - From Impossibility to Reality

Documenting the History of CAFCE in Canada

March 2009

Andrew Crichton
Formerly Co-operative Education Co-ordinator
Memorial University of Newfoundland

"This is the story of the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education (CAFCE)/Association Canadienne de l’Enseignement Cooperatif (ACDEC). CAFCE was formed on September 26, 1973 when 29  representatives of 15 post secondary institutions from across Canada met at McMaster University and Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario , formally adopting a constitution and electing a board of directors. However, to fully appreciate the role of CAFCE and the context within which it was formed, we need to step back a few years to 1957, arguably the most significant year in the history of co-operative education in Canada"  Click here on the title "From Impossibility to Reality" to download a .pdf copy of the full story.



1. Early Beginnings, 1957-1973 

2. CAFCE is Born: 1973 – 1979     
     2.1    CAFCE’s Founding Meeting
     2.2    CAFCE’s First Year of Operation
     2.3    The Shaping of CAFCE – The Formative Years
     2.4    CAFCE as a Lobby Organization - Building the Road to Ottawa
     2.5    The Co-operative Education Council of Canada (CECOC)
     2.6    The “Leading Light” Award   

3. The 1980s – Decade of Uncertainty
     3.1    “The Twilight War” - Environmental Backdrop to the 1980s
     3.2    Employment Opportunities in the 80s – the Dodge Task Force
     3.3    Job Entry and the National Office
     3.4    The Three -Year $300,000 Program
     3.5    “To Freebie or Not to Freebie? That is the Question”
     3.6    The Influence of CECOC on Funding and Quality
     3.7    CAFCE Archives
     3.8    CAFCE Logo Revisited
     3.9    CAFCE on the International Stage
     3.10    The Research Plunge
     3.11    The Albert S. Barber Award
     3.12    Sunset on the 1980s
4. The 1990s - CAFCE in Turbulent Years
     4.1    Sunrise on the 1990s
     4.2    Shaping the National Office - an Entrepreneurial Initiative
     4.3    CAFCE, CCWEAC and the Canadian Centre for Co-operative Education
     4.4    Dr. Graham R. Branton
     4.5    CAFCE Regional Groups
     4.6    The Role of CAFCE Conferences in Regional Development
     4.7    “Co-op Education” - Canada’s Co-operative Education Publication
     4.8    National Co-operative Education Week – “Education Today for Excellence Tomorrow”
     4.9    International Co-op Exchange Programs in Canada
     4.10    Retirements - the End of an Era

5.  CAFCE in the New Millennium
     5.1    Transition of a Thousand Years
               5.11    Balance or Bust
               5.12    We Are Still Here – and Here to Stay!
     5.2    Accreditation Revisited
     5.3    International Co-op in the New Millennium
               5.31    CEIA-CAFCE Visa Project
               5.32    The Canada UK Exchange Agreement   
               5.33    Globalisation Marches On!
     5.4    Promoting CAFCE Through the National Media
     5.5    The Co-operative Education Manual
     5.6    Research, Research and More Research!
                5.61    The Research Rebirth
                5.62    The Research Recognition and Incentive Grant
                5.63    Statistics, Damned Lies and Statistics   
     5.7    Recognising Excellence and Achievement   
                5.71     The Co-op Student of the Year Award   
                5.72    The Emery-Default Award
                5.73     Volunteer Recognition Award   
     5.8    Strategic Planning in CAFCE
     5.9     Reflections on the Past; Thoughts for the Future   

A.    CAFCE Presidents   
B.    Recipients of the Albert S. Barber Award
C.    Dr. Graham Branton Research Award Recipients
D.    CAFCE Strategic Plan 2007
E      CAFCE Service Awards



(Portions of the original article printed in CEIA's Journal of Co-operative Education have been reprinted here with permission from the Cooperative Education & Internship Association Inc. USA)

Prologue - The Early Years

In the mid 1950's admissions to post-secondary academic institutions in Canada started to grow at a rapid rate. The technology revolution was underway. Universities and colleges throughout North America and the rest of the world were playing catch-up to the scientific advances in Russia which had sent the first satellite into orbit.

The community of Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario, 65 miles west of Toronto, was a diverse manufacturing, business and insurance community. There was a small Lutheran liberal arts college located in the city of Waterloo providing the only post-secondary education for a large and growing region. A number of businessmen had a vision that a technologically oriented university was needed. Many of these businessmen had been transferred from head offices to subsidiary companies in the area and they were familiar with the cooperative education as then practiced in the U.S.A. The idea was attractive to them as the best way to serve the growing science and technology needs of the community and, indeed, the country.

This group of businessmen did some investigating and decided to found an institution with an engineering program based on the concept of cooperative education. Once the decision was made little time was wasted, and by July 1957, 75 co-op students were admitted to a new institution which would later become the University of Waterloo.

The founders were immediately visited by delegations from nearby institutions who came not to praise them and find out more about what they were doing, but to criticize their efforts. They were told cooperative education would sully the academic program; the comfortable academic year system would require dramatic change and; the economy would not support such a venture. The uniform message espoused by these academicians was "it wouldn't work." Meanwhile, employers of co-op students judged co-op programs to be a success. Students were well received and give practical and challenging learning situations during their work terms. Supervisors of students became aware they had a unique opportunity to be a part of the educational process of future leaders of Canadian industry and business.

Growth and Expansion

Further proof of the value of cooperative education came when other institutions in Canada began to emulate the program at Waterloo. The first of these institutions was the Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec which initiated a program in 1964. Soon thereafter co-op programs were begun at Memorial University of Newfoundland. the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia Technical College all with work term sequences modeled after those at the University of Waterloo. By 1969 and 1970 Mohawk and FanshaweColleges of Applied Arts & Technology in Ontarioadopted this format for their technological programs. With the addition of cooperative education at the University of Victoria in British Columbia in 1976 the movement had spread from coast to coast in Canada.

The initial group of employers of co-op students in were generally spearheaded by individuals who had experience either with the sandwich education program in Britain or with co-op programs in the United States. As the benefits of this type of education became known and referrals were made by current co-op employers, more employers became interested in participating.

Co-op students work in all regions of the country; they are not limited to working in the geographical area where they study. Although there is some cooperation among co-op practitioners, each college and university maintains responsibility for developing and monitoring their own student placements.

One of the major benefits for co-op employers in Canada is the standard work term of four months which has been adopted by virtually every situation. This has allowed employers to interchange students from one institution for those of another. It has also assisted them in having a common training format which can include students from more than one institution.

Support for cooperative education among employers in is found in all sectors of the economy. Approximately 75% of all co-op placements are in the private sector with the remainder represented by federal, provincial and municipal governments as well as the various government and social agencies. It is estimated that fewer than 50 organizations employ more than 10 students at one time. Although this requires considerable more attention by co-op practitioners, it provides co-op students with a broad employer base.

Canadian Association for Cooperative Education (CAFCE)

Paralleling events in the United States, a professional organization evolved many years after the introduction of cooperative education in Canada. On September 26, 1973, 29 representatives from 15 institutions met at McMaster University and Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, to form the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education/Association Canadienne de l'Enseignement Cooperatif.

This association represents cooperative education at the post-secondary level of education in Canada. There were no employers at the initial meeting. This was not because they were not valued but because the educational co-op professionals felt they should get their own act together before involving employers. In 1977 members of the fledgling organization redefined cooperative education and reformulated their constitution to create the Cooperative Education Council of Canada. Only then were employers actively encouraged to join and they are now an equal and integral part of the Association.

Bruce A. McCallum, University of Guelph and James C. Wilson, University of Waterloo Volume XXIV Numbers 2-3, Pages 61-67