In an effort to encourage long term opportunities for scientific and industrial exchange between Canada and Japan, The Canada-Japan Co-op Program was established in May 1991, with support from the Government of Canada’s Pacific 2000 Japan Science & Technology Fund. A consortium of four core Canadian Universities was formed to implement the program and launch it on a three-year pilot phase. The mandate was to develop a pool of young Canadian engineers and scientists with hands-on experience in the Japanese work place.
With the challenge of introducing the concept of co-operative education to Japanese companies, The Canada-Japan Co-op Program set about developing work placement opportunities for Canadian students in Japan. By the end of the program pilot phase, 175 placements had been completed with students and companies both reporting their expectations had been exceeded. While some of Canada’s brightest university students developed an understanding and appreciation of Japanese industry and culture, Japanese companies were given the opportunity to take advantage of highly skilled and motivated students.
Returning students claimed that with the added value of international work experience in Japan appearing on their resumes, they achieved access to more Canadian career opportunities; and Japanese company representatives, while initially cautious about accepting undergraduate interns, expressed tremendous satisfaction with the level of performance, maturity, and responsibility exhibited by Canada-Japan Co-op students. An added bonus of the international placement experience for both students and companies was the strength of the personal relationships and professional contacts that had been established. Not unexpectedly, some of these relationships have parlayed into research exchange opportunities between representative universities and placement companies.
In 1994, with the success of The Canada-Japan Co-op Program pilot phase cemented, the Canadian Government issued a mandate for expansion. Every university and college in Canada was invited to participate, making the Canada-Japan Co-op Program a truly national placement program. At one stage the Canada-Japan Co-op Program represented 22 Canadian universities. An average of 40 students participate each year, spending up to 12 months working primarily in research and development oriented environments of participating companies in Japan.
In 2007, the program was renamed The Canada-Japan Co-op Program to represent the real nature of co-op exchange from Canada to Japan.