Dhillon School of Business accounting major Andrew Belisle (BMgt '22) used his experiences in Co-operative Education (co-op) to hone his skills and make himself attractive to potential employers long before graduation. Here he talks about what contributed to his success, including how he managed to get four offers from top recruiters by the time he graduated.

Please tell us a bit about your experiential or work-integrated learning. What were your biggest takeaways from participating?

Throughout my co-op work terms, I was able to contribute to the completion of team projects and the success of my team as well as make professional connections with managers, supervisors and co-workers. This allowed me to have solid work references and helped me get co-op positions with The City of Edmonton, a major investment corporation, a major energy corporation and eventually get offered permanent positions from several top recruiters. I now network with professionals in various industries and it helps me decide what areas of professional development I would like to further pursue.

My three biggest takeaways were:
1. Co-workers want to see you succeed.

Co-workers are usually excited about new students joining the organization. They have limited time to get to know you, learn what your future plans are and provide professional advice that will be helpful to you. They enjoy being asked questions and providing mentorship, but also want to know about your interests and hobbies to help you better fit in with the organization's culture and be successful.

2. Organizations encourage hiring employee referrals.

Many organizations post job ads but prefer to hire someone who has been referred by an employee. This is one of the benefits of being friendly and outgoing. Connecting with co-workers in multiple departments gives you a better chance of being a referral when new opportunities become available within the organization.

3. Data management and technology use are expanding in the workplace.

I have found that organizations are innovative and continually trying to implement the newest technological trends used in the industry. Having good data management skills in Excel or Power BI can significantly reduce the learning curve and impress your supervisor or co-workers. Data courses are now abundant online and having a few Excel tricks to show your supervisor can make you stand out from other co-ops and might even get brought up during a work reference check.

What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience?

I think I would say finding out I was the recipient of a CPA Education Foundation Scholarship and being featured on the back cover and inside of CPA Alberta’s 2021 Report to the Community would be up there on the list of my most memorable University of Lethbridge experiences.

I have been awarded a few scholarships and bursaries during my time at ULethbridge. After my second or third Jason Lang Scholarship (a scholarship given in memory of Jason Lang, a victim of the Taber high-school shooting in 1999 which may have been influenced by the Columbine high school massacre a few days earlier). I wrote a drama class speech to address the epidemic of gun violence plaguing America and highlight how other countries have avoided this problem. Although that was meaningful and memorable, being recognized and published in an annual report was a first for me and an exciting experience I enjoy talking about.

What is the most important lesson you learned during your time at ULethbridge?

The most important lesson I’ve learned during my time at the University of Lethbridge is to be adventurous. Be adventurous in taking courses, joining clubs, applying for co-op positions and in networking with classmates and co-workers. Being adventurous led me from the international management program at ULethbridge, which I had a strong interest in, to going to college to complete a diploma in Ag-management. I returned to ULethbridge to complete a degree in accounting and recently got hired by an international accounting firm which gives the option to relocate to national and international locations.

Is there someone specific who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?

I would say many of the professors and staff helped to contribute to my overall amazing experience at ULethbridge. The professors shared valuable industry and career insight including managing a business in Brazil, CPA designation advice, accounting insight into the airline industry, auditing insight as an auditor general and other professional business perspectives.

My co-op coordinators probably had the most important influence on my experience. They were with me through the full ULethbridge experience, from introducing me to the co-op program on my first day at orientation to asking how current courses were going so I could update my resume, to providing support through my co-op work terms. I would like to acknowledge and thank Brynne Thurston for the career coaching and professional guidance she provided as well as Susan Roulston for having such an amazing co-op program available for students.

Did you receive scholarships and awards? If so, please tell us a bit about how they helped you throughout your studies.

Yes, I received a few scholarships and awards over the past few years. They include a Post Diploma Entrance Bursary, the Jason Lang Scholarship (twice), a Quality Initiatives Bursary, and the one I’m still excited about being chosen for, a CPA Education Foundation Scholarship.

I have found these to be helpful in a variety of ways. They provided motivation and encouraged me to seek out resources to help keep my GPA above a certain level. This included requesting the free tutoring services offered by top-performing students. They also allowed me to graduate sooner by allowing me to take full course loads instead of working part-time. I am very thankful for each award and scholarship I have received and think that they all contributed to me being able to achieve what I have during my time at ULethbridge.

What are your hopes and plans for the future?

I have too many hopes and plans to all list here. Regarding my professional development, I recently got hired into an amazing organization that offers professional consultancy services to clients. Even though this is not the role I got hired into, I plan on learning more about it and maybe eventually transfer into a consultancy role. I just registered to start the CPA designation program and hope to work through it over the next few years. The organization is a strong supporter of MBA programs and so I am working on figuring out when would be a good time to start pursuing an online MBA as well.

I recently completed a co-op term with a major energy corporation and was excited to see the City of Edmonton roll out its major electric transit bus initiative and plan its massive solar farm project while I was working with them. I hope to see more companies work toward sustainable development, embracing renewable energy and addressing global warming. I would like to be a part of providing the solution.

The investment management corporation I worked with was openly opposed to America’s irresponsible and far too often tragic firearms policy. They along with other major investment firms removed weapon manufacturers and other unethical stock holdings from their portfolios. I would hope to see corporations continue to make decisions based on ethical values and use their influence to try and bring about social change for the better.

I would like to utilize the option provided by the company I’m currently working with to relocate and experience working somewhere warm and tropical. As the U.N. has been mentioning the risk of a hunger crisis, I might be able to use my agriculture education to provide consultancy services to producers in countries that can help address the need to feed a growing global population. Smart farming and Ag-data analytics have been growing in popularity as well so I might be able to expand my work experience in that sector.

What advice would you like to give those who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?

My advice to those who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge would be to join the co-op program. I found it beneficial to join various clubs, utilize the free tutoring services offered and regularly attend sports and other campus events, but the co-op program helps to focus on what you would like to do after graduation. You will get to see positions companies are trying to fill based on your degree program, learn about the skills that will help you get hired and hear feedback from current students on what they expected compared to what they experienced working those co-op terms.

I found that after applying for co-ops and going through the interview process I was able to identify my areas for improvement. This motivated me to take on leadership roles in team projects, become more involved in club activities and utilize resources like Udemy to obtain the technical skills needed. Every year I would apply with the same dozen or so major companies as well as a few new ones. This allowed me to become familiar with the recruiters and allowed them to track my professional development and co-op experiences. When graduation time came around I had about four offers available to choose from, all from top recruiters.

Congrats Andrew!

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