From Co-Op to Co-Worker
Partnering with a local school district helps students gain work experience, and helps Edsby build a funnel for new employees
Around the world, many companies in the technology industry are continually looking for highly educated and ready-to-work individuals who can make meaningful long-term effects. Edsby is no exception. The company’s focus on K-12 makes for an obvious source of potential talent: high school co-operative education.
Often referred to as “co-op,” this system combines academic programs with professional experience. It solves two needs: real-world work experience for students and access to emerging talent for businesses.
In 2017, Edsby partnered with York Region School District (YRDSB) near its offices in the Toronto, Canada area to find talented local students who show skills in computer programming, software development, and engineering. While the board’s co-op program is for students in Grade 11 and 12, any student over 15 years old and with a subject-specific credit in a course related to the co-operative education placement can enroll. Edsby is fortunate to work with excellent teachers who recommend students to work with the Edsby team. Julie Oke, Edsby’s co-op mentor, then interviews the students.
“Over the years, we’ve built a strong relationship with the co-op teachers at two local York Region schools. Their dedication to finding and building relationships with both students and community partners is what makes the co-op program beneficial to everyone,” says Julie.
Benefits of co-operative education
Co-op work allows students to develop self-confidence. With Edsby, local students acquire hands-on experience, strengthen employability skills, networks, and earn credits toward their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD).
“Our co-operative education students benefit so much from the hands-on experiences they gain by being immersed in the community. With strong supervisors, our students learn transferrable soft skills. They acquire industry-specific knowledge and competencies that cannot be learned in a traditional classroom. The learning achieved through our dedicated supervisor/facilitators enables these students to gain insights into their career pathways or areas of interest. It enhances and furthers their mastery in both narrow and broad-spectrum areas,” says Michele Axelrod, Interim Head of Department Co-operative Education, Richmond Hill High School.
Not only do the students benefit from the co-op program, but community supervisors also benefit from working with a new team of students every semester. Julie says, “Before we joined the co-op, I’d never lead a team of people. The co-op program gave me the opportunity to develop my mentoring skills. Twice a year, I get a new team, and I can keep building and refining our mentoring program.”
Edsby’s success with co-op programs
After four years, students and teachers can attribute Edsby’s success in the co-op program to its mentorship. “Edsby has been an outstanding community co-op partner. Edsby allows our students to meet, connect and work with professionals in software development. They mentor and work alongside our students to help them discover and explore a variety of interests in the field of computer science. We are privileged to have such a great working relationship with an organization that values student inspiration and development,” says Mike Mastrandrea, Counsellor & Head of Co-operative education in the Tommy Douglas Secondary School.
Real opportunities and solid software experience
Real-world experience in software development is a great “plus point.” Being a co-op for a real software firm is the best way to gain that experience.
“Edsby is a wonderful place for high school co-op students. The teams’ strong work ethic, friendly nature, and warm and cozy environment make this one of the best places to work at your co-op term, especially for Computer Science Majors like myself. While working here, I got to see the inner workings of Edsby. I also created videos to help customers, created promotional material for the company using the product, and participated in the most practical task, Quality Assurance (QA). I would say QA was crucial as it’s a set of standards that we have to meet to have a successful and reliable product,” says Mathu Manimaran, a former Grade 11 co-op student.
Given that Edsby is made for K-12 students and teachers, having articulate and thoughtful high school students on the team is a great advantage. One of the responsibilities of being part of the Edsby co-op program is to be the student’s voice in product development decisions. When the company wants to know what’s important and valuable to students, it asks them. By 11th Grade, they are experts at being a K-12 student, and Edsby benefits from that expertise.
Better software through creativity
Although Edsby’s co-op program focuses on software development and engineering, other skillsets are assets. Tiffany Tjong joined the Edsby co-op program to explore how she could use her artistic talents as a career. Quickly, she realized that her sort of creativity is an important part of the software development process.
“Ever since I joined Edsby as a Co-op student in my final year of high school, I was treated as an equal. It’s not often that you get a company that genuinely values your ideas and hard work. I enjoyed working at Edsby so much that I returned for a paid full-time stint in the summer and as an intern during my first two years at university. I enjoyed working alongside caring mentors and exceptional teams and being a crucial part of exciting new features,” says Tiffany.
Tiffany has seen some of her Edsby illustrations incorporated into Edsby seasonal login screens. She has created icons for groups and illustrations for Edsby news posts. Her work is visible on online help pages and videos. In Tiffany’s second year, she took on the task of testing and documenting companion products to Edsby. She also worked with both other vendors and Edsby’s customers. In 2021, Tiffany learned about latest academic research into facial expressions and emotions to create the signature color-coded icons of Edsby’s Social-Emotional check-ins feature with the feedback of the Edsby Social Emotional Advisory Board, an invaluable contribution.
For Edsby, hiring a summer student is about investing in a future workforce. It’s about helping to develop a generation of learners, thinkers, problem-solvers, and leaders. It also provides students with vital job experience, a feeling of purpose, responsibility, and exposure to belonging to an organization.
It’s a joy at Edsby to see students join the company as co-ops. They develop into trusted and valuable team members. “It was a blast to be a co-op and work full-time with Edsby. It helped me with the fundamental skills I needed for Computer Science,” says Mathu.