Is high school co-op the same as an unpaid internship?
No, high school co-op is not considered an unpaid internship. The Ministry of Education defines high school co-op as:
“Cooperative education may be the culmination of a series of experiential learning opportunities that include job shadowing, job twinning, and work experience, and is often an integral part of school–work transition programs, including the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP).
A cooperative education course must be based on a related course (or courses) from an Ontario curriculum policy document or on a ministry-approved locally developed course in which the student is enrolled or which he or she has successfully completed. The cooperative education course and the related course (or courses) together constitute a student’s cooperative education program, designed to suit the student’s strengths, interests, and needs and to enhance the student’s preparation for the future.
Cooperative education courses include a classroom component, comprising preplacement and integration activities, and a placement component. Students earn cooperative education credits by integrating classroom theory with planned learning experiences in the community to achieve learning based on the curriculum expectations of the related course. Placements should provide students with challenging opportunities to apply and extend the knowledge, and practise and refine the skills, acquired in the related course and to demonstrate achievement of placement expectations that reflect current workplace practices and standards. Cooperative education involves a partnership between education and business, industry, agriculture, labour, or community organizations that includes students, teachers, parents,1 employers, and placement supervisors. Additional participants may be involved in the case of exceptional students and other students with special needs. Joint planning by these individuals ensures that students are provided with a systematic introduction to career exploration, experiential learning, and career planning.
Students apply to take a cooperative education course during the course selection process. A counselling and interviewing process – conducted by cooperative education teachers in collaboration with guidance counsellors, teacher-advisers, and administrators – determines applicants’ suitability for the program. Prior to their placements, students attend structured orientation sessions as part of the classroom component of the program.
In collaboration with students, subject teachers, and placement supervisors, cooperative education teachers prepare personalized placement learning plans that include a description of the curricular knowledge and skills and the employability skills that students will demonstrate at their placements. Cooperative education teachers also conduct placement learning assessments and evaluate their students’ performance in pre-placement, placement, and reflective learning activities. Students share and analyse their placement experiences with their teachers and peers in structured integration sessions.
Source: Cooperative Education and Other Forms of Experiential Learning, 2000
To learn more about unpaid internships, please visit: https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pubs/internships.php.