For 40 years, the University of Toronto’s Professional Experience Year Co-op Program (PEY Co-op) has enabled the next generation of innovators and leaders to spend 12 to 16 months working for a wide range of companies around the world, from local startups to global brands. It is the largest optional work-experience program of its kind in Canada.
In the Beginning
In the late 1970s, faculty members in the Department of Mechanical Engineering developed an undergraduate teaching model that enabled students to gain invaluable practical engineering experience in real-world environments across many different industries. The proposed model went beyond traditional co-op positions by allowing students to earn a competitive salary during a 12- or 16-month work term. Long-term positions enabled students to become a valuable part of their workplace, contribute meaningfully to projects and train their successors in the four-month overlap in each 16-month employment term.
U of T Engineering tested this model and invited a handful of companies to participate. In 1979, three companies joined the first PEY pilot: General Motors Canada, de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited and Ontario Hydro. The trial, with four positions, was a success, and throughout the 1980s, the program gradually expanded in popularity with both students and employers.
PEY Co-op today
Now, four decades since the first trial, more than 350 employers register positions and more than 700 engineering students elect to take advantage of the program each year. World-class organizations such as IBM and AMD have hired more than 1,000 of our students since the early years of the program. PEY Co-op has also led to full-time, post-graduation employment for hundreds of students. In these positions and in their careers, students have applied their technical and professional competencies to industry challenges and collaborated with world-leading industry employers to develop novel technologies and address global challenges.
Last year, the combined salaries of PEY Co-op students exceeded $40 million, generating significant economic benefit to students and the country. PEY Co-op positions are also reflective of our global alumni community, as many of our alumni, now flourishing as leaders across Canada and around the world, hire PEY Co-op students. The Engineering Career Centre continues to work closely with students and employers to refine the PEY Co-op program and ensure our students excel in their positions and careers.
In celebration of PEY Co-op’s 40th year, the Engineering Career Centre is hosting its inaugural recognition dinner in February 2019 to honour outstanding employers and students for their contributions to PEY Co-op.
Highlights from the last 40 years
Under the leadership of Dean Cristina Amon in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, the Professional Experience Year Internship Program (PEY) becomes a registered co-op program. This ensures participants retain their student status and have access to University support services while working. The program was renamed the Professional Experience Year Co-op Program (PEY Co-op) to reflect this change.
A record number of employers partner with the Engineering Career Centre (ECC) resulting in over 1,800 PEY internship opportunities.
The Engineering Career Centre (ECC) places its 10,000th student; both IBM and AMD each surpass their 1,000th appointment. In the same year, the ECC places 790 undergraduate students—70 per cent of the undergraduate class and a record number for the program.
The Engineering Career Centre places its 5,000th student in an internship position.
316 students are placed, well exceeding the target of 200 positions by 2000.
In the first 10 years, 342 PEY internship students are placed with an average annual participation of 34, which represents nearly five per cent of the graduating class.
That same year, PEY extended it's reach to also include Arts & Science students.
PEY is implemented as a Faculty-wide program.
The PEY internship program is offered to students in the Mechanical Engineering program in partnership with de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited, General Motors Canada and Ontario Hydro. Four students participate in the first PEY pilot.
Under the leadership of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and with the support of Dean Gordon Slemon, the PEY concept is nurtured and formulated by professors Derek McCammond, David Scott and Ron Venter. Program costs are minimal as each student is working in industry for a full 12- to 16-month period and returning thereafter to continue into their fourth year of study having gained invaluable engineering experience.
Discussion of a paid internship program is initiated within our Department of Mechanical Engineering.
PEY Co-op by the numbers
In the last 40 years, over 14,270 U of T students across engineering and applied science disciplines have participated in this program.
350+ companies worldwide hire through the PEY Co-op program, from large multinationals to dynamic local startups.
For the past three years, nearly 70% of all engineering students chose to participate in the PEY Co-op program, up from 55% a decade ago.
Students earn an average 12-month salary of $50,000. With the highest salaries exceeding $100,000.
Each year, PEY Co-op students have access to 1,800+ positions around the world.
On February 28th we are hosting our inaugural dinner reception and awards ceremony to recognize the employers and students who contribute to the excellence of the PEY Co-op Program. Click HERE for more information.
What employers say
“I am continually impressed by the calibre of PEY Co-op students that come through our doors year after year. I am proud to partner with the program and with the excellent staff at the PEY Co-op Office.” — Coby Segall, Zebra Technologies
"Partnering with the PEY Co-op Program has given BlueCat a definitive edge when it comes to hiring within a competitive technical talent market. Not only do these students add immediate value, but when we invest in them long-term, they become future BlueCat leaders." — Lauren Posen, BlueCat
“The PEY Co-op Program is a great way to gain short-term support while investing in future talent. Since participating in the program starting in 2009, we have not had to recruit full-time staff — several students have returned to join our team.” — Steve Titus, Aercoustics
“I first learned about the PEY program as an Engineering Science student many years ago. PEY students contribute like full-time engineers and are treated that way. We also get to ‘try before you buy’ a number of outstanding engineers. We are very pleased that so many have returned to join us full-time after graduation.” — Terry Borer, Altera Corporation
What alumni say
“The program is a perfect way to change pace from theoretical to practical. My 16-month position at Sanofi Pasteur provided me with enough time to make an impact. My boss involved me in several large-scale projects and I was able to see these projects through from start to finish. Most importantly, the experience widened and strengthened my professional network.” — Juhx Pellazar (ChemE 1T2 + PEY)
“During my PEY Co-op position at Conavi Medical, I was involved in mechanical-electrical systems development, micro-machining and assembly manufacturing process, device testing and more. These experiences, combined with my coursework, helped my move into the aerospace industry at MDA after graduation. Now I help to design and manufacture robotics systems for the space and medical industries.” — Harrison Chen (MechE 1T6 + PEY)
"The 12 months I spent at Goldcorp as a PEY Co-op student gave me the confidence and practical experience to accelerate my career as a mineral engineer. I started at Goldcorp as part of the drill and blast team—today I'm leading a team as a long-term planner at Alamos Gold's Young-Davidson mine. I also met some of my closest friends and professional connections during my PEY Co-op who continue to be mentors, years later." — Channa Kumarage (MinE 1T5 + PEY)