Province adds $1M to budget for co-op placements

The McNeil government is adding another $1M to the budget for co-op placements to create as many as 200 more spaces for university and college students looking for real-world experience.

Adding to the budget could create as many as 200 more opportunities

Ben Parmiter is a Dalhousie co-op student. Oshrit Harel is manager of research and development for Metamaterial Technologies Inc. (Jean LaRoche/CBC)

Dalhousie University student Ben Parmiter is heading back to class this fall without much of a tan, and no break from his field of study — mechanical engineering.

That's because the 20-year-old from Lawrencetown, N.S., near Halifax, has spent most of the past three months in a Dartmouth research facility, and in the dark, as part of a research team working at Metamaterial Technologies Inc., trying to find new ways to deflect laser light.

Parmiter's salary is subsidized by taxpayers as part of a co-op program aimed at giving university and college students real-world experience to accompany what they're studying.

This is his second co-op placement at the company. He's one of five students working there this summer.

500 students placed in Nova Scotia

They are among the 500 students in a co-op program the provincial government is expanding this year. A $1-million budget increase should create space for another 200 students.

The aim of Parmiter's research is to find the best way to protect aircraft pilots from suffering damage to their eyes when someone aims a laser pointer at a cockpit.

Researchers are trying to find ways to protect pilots from laser light directed at cockpits. (Jean LaRoche/CBC)

"It's a very specific research that we're doing here," said Parmiter. "And I get to work with such amazing people, such brilliant scientists.

"It's lots of fun." he said about being part of the research team.

​Oshrit Harel, MTI's manager of research and development, said having students as part of the team brings a fresh perspective to the work.

"They have a different way of looking [at] it," she said.

According to Harel, the students are treated no differently that other team members and are responsible for their own work.

"They are an integral part of our team," she said.

Practical application

For Parmiter, the biggest advantage of a co-op education is the ability to apply classroom work with practical application.

"The biggest thing is definitely the hands-on experience, so getting to actually use the skills that I'm learning in school," he said.  "My problem-solving, my analysis skills, so actually applying real-world examples instead of just textbook examples is really important."

After his studies, Parmiter would like to return as a full-fledged employee. "I would love to work for this company," he said.

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