When Victoria Valeriani went looking for a co-op placement after her third year of university, she wasn’t too sure how it would work out. It was June 2020, and the Canadian economy had yet to recover from the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid that turmoil and uncertainty, Valeriani was able to find success: a small start-up business was advertising a position after receiving wage subsidy funding from the federal Student Work Placement Program (SWPP).
Through SWPP, eligible employers receive $5,000 in wage subsidy funding to hire post-secondary students for quality work experiences. Employers receive up to $7,000 when hiring from under-represented groups, including Indigenous students, or students with a disability.
For Valeriani’s employer, a health information platform called Doctalk, the SWPP susbidy was crucial to bringing her onboard.
“This funding has been incredibly beneficial for Doctalk,” said CEO and founder Mason Ross. “Without it, there is no way we would have been able to grow the company to where we are now in such a short time.”
Valeriani did well in her co-op term at Doctalk and later came back for a second. After that, while still in school, she continued working part-time for the fast-growing company. After she graduated from Law and Business at Toronto Metropolitan University, Doctalk offered Valeriani a full-time job.
“My first co-op was pretty general,” she recalled. “I was doing odds and ends, helping out wherever I could and learning lots about the business and the industry. Then I moved into more of an human resources role, doing some of the hiring. That just kind of grew for me. Now I handle all the HR functions at DocTalk, all the hiring, onboarding, offboarding, the entire recruitment process.”
Valeriani, whose official title is Doctalk’s Culture & Project Manager, continues to make use of the Student Work Placement Program to give new students the chance to gain real-world experience.
“We use the program every term for as many co-op students as we can get,” Valeriani said. “Overall, we’ve probably had 11 or 12. It’s really allowed our business to grow. It’s been so, so beneficial. There’s no way we would be where we are without that funding.”
Valeriani isn’t the only Doctalk full-timer who used the Student Work Placement Program to launch a career. Michael Alves got his start with the company as a freelancer when he was hired to create a demonstration video for one of Doctalk’s applications. That led to a co-op term, a first for Alves after years of freelance work, where he typically was assigned lower-value tasks.
“It was really cool to do an actual internship for a company,” Alves said. “I got to come up with creative processes and give them my input on what I was studying in school, which was media production.”
Alves wanted to stay at Doctalk beyond his co-op term, so Valeriani utilized Student Work Placement Program funding to help make that happen.
“I was a little worried because it’s a smaller company and I really did want to stay on,” Alves said. “Luckily, SWPP was able to help us out and allow me to do that summer with them. That allowed me to move into the role I’m in now, which I love. Since September, I’ve been leading the creative function for Doctalk. It almost feels like an overnight success story. I started doing a general contract for one video. Now I’m overseeing many videos, overseeing all of the user interface and experience design. It’s pretty cool.”
Reflecting on his journey from student freelancer to creative lead for a budding business, Alves said he’s grateful for the funding that helped him access a valuable opportunity for personal and professional growth.
“Programs like SWPP help companies that may not have an endless well of money to provide to interns,” he said. “It was really cool to get the opportunity to work for a small, scrappy company that allowed me so much autonomy.
“Things like this are important to diversify the experiences students get. A lot of students will go straight into huge companies that can afford to take as many interns as they want. But there’s so much value in the companies that are smaller teams and still learning, that don’t know what they don’t know, because you can be a part of that conversation. It is a little stressful at times, but it’s super, super valuable in terms of growing as a professional and evolving from a student to a real-life adult person, I would say.”
We are currently accepting applications for Winter 2023 (funding term: January 1 to April 30, 2023). We have limited funding and applications submitted at this time will be added to a waitlist. We will begin reviewing applications on the waitlist in January on a first come, first served basis. You will be notified by email if we are moving forward with your application. Click here to learn more about the Student Work Placement Program.