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Keith Harrison

Keith Harrison

 

Employer

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Position

Technical Co-op Student

Type

Internship

Duration

15 months

Program

Nuclear Engineering

Would you return to this employer?

Yes

Would you recommend your employer?

Yes

Would you return to a similar position?

Yes

 

Did you always know you wanted to do a co-op/ internship?

Yes, it was clear that co-ops/internships provide invaluable learning experience outside of the classroom, and employers see this too.

Did you have any concerns or hesitations before you started?

I did not know the nature of the work I would be doing, and was unsure if I wanted to accept my co-op offer when other employers had not started interviews yet.

What were your expectations?

My expectations were to go beyond Ontario Tech’s curriculum to develop unique familiarity of expertise that would help me obtain post-graduation employment. I also hoped to save up some money in the process.

How did your experience compare with your expectations?

My experience greatly exceeded my expectation. I came back to Ontario Tech with a robust understanding of CNSC’s regulatory framework and technical knowledge that has greatly improved my performance in my final year, and in the job hunt. Most of all, I came out with a sense of direction for what I wanted my career to look like.

Did you enjoy your experience?

My experience at CNSC was phenomenal. The rotation program allowed me to take control of my learning by exploring aspects of the nuclear industry and its regulation that interested me.

What were your tasks and responsibilities?

Each placement had a set of unique learning objectives with associated activities relevant to each division’s work. Some of these included participating on inspections, preparing technical reports, and assisting in preparation of draft correspondence , commission member documents, or regulatory documents.

What was the work atmosphere like?

The work atmosphere was very supportive and learning-driven. Staff were willing to take considerable time to mentor and teach students. and these were some of the most valuable learning experiences of my career. Semi-formal attire and conduct is expected in the office, but the atmosphere is still very comfortable. Most placements allowed flexible start times, so you clock in from 7 to 9am and clock out accordingly. Sick and vacation time was comparable to full-time staff. The Young Professionals Network and GCWCC arrange networking, charitable, and team-building events for young and young-at-heart staff.

Did you receive any additional training and/or opportunities?

The training and support available to students at the CNSC is substantial. Students may have the opportunity to participate in internal and external training programs, participate in inspections of licensees, or attend a commission meeting/hearing. The informal training available from mentorship made major contributions to my learning experience at CNSC. The 15-month terms mean that the previous students are available to mentor the new group for the first summer, sharing their experiences with the new students.

What previous skills and/or competencies helped you in your role?

Familiarity with nuclear science and the CANDU reactor design was invaluable, as the majority of students from other disciplines are not able to hit the ground running without this background. Experience with Excel VBA and other programming languages came in handy for some work I did, but was not a practical requirement.

What previous skills and/or competencies did you develop during your placement?

Critical assessment skills and a questioning attitude were something I developed from my assessment work. Being able to look at a piece of engineering work and apply math, science, and engineering principles to determine if the work is physically sound and conservative is a key skillset for engineering professionals. I was exposed to modern codes and standards as well as the CSA process for creating and maintaining them. My writing skills also improved appreciably.

What advice would you offer to students that want to pursue a co-op/internship?

Your co-op and internship experience will be what sets you apart from your peers when looking for jobs, and will give you a clearer idea of what you want your career to be like. Connect with the Engineering Co-op and Internship office and use the career center and professors to get help preparing your resume, cover letter, and interview skills. Ultimately your resume and cover letter do a lot of the heavy lifting the job hunt, so make sure they’re on point.