Co-op plays crucial role in grad's path to career success

Mike Allen working in the permit office of City of Hamilton

Mike Allen’s road to success was anything but linear. As he carved out his path to an architectural technology career, his passion for professional advancement combined with Mohawk College’s experiential learning and valuable co-op opportunities helped to make the journey smooth.

When Mike initially came to Mohawk, he worked full time while taking continuing education courses to learn about residential design and construction. After finishing a few courses, Mike discovered that the college’s versatile pathways would allow him to apply some of his completed courses to the full-time Architectural Technology Advanced Diploma. The opportunity sparked his interest. With a bit more research, Mike decided to pursue a full career change by attending Mohawk’s three-year Architectural Technology program.

“The field of architectural technology has many paths and the co-op opportunities in the program are invaluable, as they can pave the way to a rewarding career,” says Mike of the offering, which includes three co-op work terms.

In the program, students become familiar with theory and skills through an experiential learning approach which, beyond co-op, includes industry events, opportunities to participate in research, and capstone projects involving industry partners. Learners also choose a preferred career path in their third year, specializing in either building design or construction. This choice left Mike with a fork in the road. While he was equally interested in both options, Mike chose the building design route. 

“I completed an eight-month co-op with an architectural firm, where I worked as an architectural designer/draftsman,” says Mike. “In this role, I was able to refine my skills as a draftsman and Ontario Building Code analyst, reviewing code to ensure the designs I was working on were compliant. In addition to this, I was able to gain experience working in a small office setting.”

His next co-op — a four-month opportunity with the City of Hamilton — once again rerouted Mike’s professional path. Working as a permit application specialist, Mike had the opportunity to shadow various professionals and learned about the professional development and certifications he would need to apply to become a plans examiner with the City. Equipped with the new information, he returned to school after co-op and became certified in Ontario Building Code. 

“Co-op is not just a job, it is an interview for your future,” he says. “My first job out of school was with another municipality, where I worked in a similar role to my City of Hamilton co-op. Soon after, the opportunity came up to apply with the City of Hamilton for a permit application specialist position, which I got. I attribute my co-op experiences to my success as a Mohawk College graduate.”

Eight months into his position with the City of Hamilton, Mike says he is constantly learning, being challenged, and has the opportunity to work independently or within a team. While no two tasks are alike, the technical, analytical and research skills he gained through all his experiences at Mohawk allow him to continue to successfully navigate his career journey.