As an Indigenous student, Kevin Perkins wanted related work experience that aligned with his heritage and career goals and to give back to the community. At the University of Victoria, Perkins found that blend of academics and culturally relevant work as part of the world’s only dedicated Indigenous co-op program.
The UVic Indigenous studies major is on his third co-operative education (co-op) work term getting hands-on experience with the First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC), a First Nations-run Crown Corporation that supports the revitalization of Indigenous languages, culture and heritage in BC.
UVic students have completed 85,000 co-op work terms since its co-op program was launched in 1976 to provide students the opportunity to alternate in the classroom terms with terms working in paid positions in their field of study.
In one of the largest co-op programs in Canada, more than 42 per cent of UVic students take part in co-op with 4,145 placements completed last year alone.
“Co-op is a transformative experience,” says Norah McRae, executive director of UVic’s Co-operative Education Program and Career Services. “Students put their studies into practice and discover what they love, what they’re great at and how they can make a positive impact in their careers.”
UVic has the only dedicated Indigenous co-op program in the world, where an experiential and community learning coordinator works closely with Indigenous communities. The program places Indigenous students in culturally relevant work experiences wherever possible, champions unique exchanges that connect with Indigenous communities and projects in Australia, and facilitates funding that supports Indigenous students who are completing work terms with Indigenous businesses, communities and community groups.
Perkins returned to school a few years ago after an injury affected his career as a Red Seal sheet metal journeyman. As an Indigenous student, he worked with his co-op coordinator to find a meaningful placement that fit with his skills.
As communications and fundraising strategist with the FPCC, Perkins has written content for the organization’s Indigenous Endangered Language app, helped coordinate education events and wrote a major a report on the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation’s initiatives from the past five years. Perkins was also part of a team who coordinated an event to announce a $50 million investment from the provincial government towards First Nations languages advocacy, education and revitalization.
“It has been absolutely incredible to work with the team at FPCC and to see how its Indigenous language revitalization projects are helping Indigenous people reclaim what was taken away,” says Perkins. “I’m so excited to come to work every day.”
For organizations like the cultural council, co-op students are vital team members. “Students take on complex projects—we’re a small staff so students make a big impact,” says Megan Lappi, the organization’s communications manager. “They aren’t just making photocopies; they’re managing major projects from beginning to end and connecting with community about the work that we do.”
Media interviews are available with the following people on Friday, July 13:
Norah McRae (Executive Director, UVic Co-op and Career)
Kevin Perkins (Indigenous Studies student)
Megan Lappi (Communications Manager, First Peoples’ Cultural Council)
A press kit containing high-resolution photos is available on Dropbox.
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Joy Poliquin (Communications Officer, Co-op and Career) at 250-721-6084 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Marck (University Communications + Marketing) at 250-721-6246 or email@example.com
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