Jessica McIntyre: Lights, camera, beaver meat!

Jessica McIntyre is a student who completed a summer co-op placement with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) which took her to the Northwest Territories.

Having taken a bite out of our national rodent, you could say Arts student Jessica McIntyre’s summer UBC co-op placement with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) left a unique taste in her mouth.

“I’m First Nations, but I had never heard of anyone eating beaver until recently on the food channel,” says McIntyre, who is just completing a four-month stint with APTN’s national news bureau in Yellowknife, N.T. “I took part in a beaver and bannock feast on my first assignment. I actually really liked it.”

McIntyre, a member of the Northwest B.C. coast Musgamaug Tsawataineuk First Nation, is one of a growing number of students at UBC choosing to extend their studies by a year for the chance to gain valuable work experience through co-op placements. Last year, UBC led the province for the first time in co-op participation, with nearly 3,000 students taking part.

McIntyre, 20, says the beaver “incident” was just one of many firsts she experienced this summer. “My previous summer jobs were ‘typical boring student jobs’ — like eight hours of data entry. So it was really exciting to have a job that was challenging and interesting every day.”

The aspiring journalist began her four-month placement by archiving video footage and researching stories. But within a week her new employers began sending her out on assignment. Soon she was doing all aspects of a broadcast news story: conducting interviews, filming, editing, writing, voicing — even appearing regularly on the APTN’s national evening news.

Some of the stories McIntyre has covered include Aboriginal National Day of Action, ocean conservation issues, and local reaction to a visit by American rockers The White Stripes.

“Not many big name acts come this far North, so the town was pretty excited when The White Stripes were here,” says McIntyre. “My crew got to play paparazzi, chasing the band around and interviewing their crew and residents. It was really fun.”

Julie Walchli, Director of UBC’s Arts Co-op Program, calls experiences like McIntyre’s “win-win for both students and employers.” For students, co-ops provide important real world experiences outside the classroom, a network of professional contacts, and an average salary of around $35,000 over four four-month work terms.

Co-ops are “extended job interviews,” where employers can scout out fresh talent and staff for special projects or busy periods, says Walchli. “Employers hire for attitude and then train for specific skills. They are looking for people who are motivated, can learn quickly and fit well with their team.”

Last year, UBC put students in dozens of international placements in China, Singapore, Mexico, the United States, Germany and Switzerland. Walchli says these are by far the most popular jobs with students. “Fifteen per cent of our jobs in the Arts Co-op Program are based outside Canada and another large portion is also international in scope,” she says. “These are always the first positions to be snapped up.”

Five UBC faculties currently offer co-op programs: Arts, Science, Engineering, Forestry, and the Sauder School of Business. Once accepted, students perform three to five work terms, starting after their first or second year of study. In addition to job placements, the co-op programs provide students with a variety of training workshops and community building activities.

Overall, UBC co-op participation grew by more than 13 per cent last year, with the largest growth in Engineering, where co-op enrolment jumped 25 per cent.

As her first co-op work term comes to an end, McIntyre gives her experience two thumbs up. “I really encourage students to take this opportunity. I’m much more confident in my abilities thanks to this experience, and met a lot of students with similar interests in the process. I can’t wait until my next work term. I’m going to try for something in Asia or Africa next.”

For more information on the APTN, visit

Employers looking for UBC co-op students this year include:

  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Apple
  • Procter and Gamble
  • Shell Oil
  • The Dept. of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Industry Canada
  • Vancouver Olympic Committee
  • California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
  • Ministry of Forests/BC Timber Sales
  • Teck Cominco
  • Weyerhaeuser
  • HSBC
  • Research In Motion
  • Vancouver Coast Health
  • Library and Archives Canada
  • Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation
  • Indian Residential School Resolutions Canada

Written by Basil Waugh, 2010