Post-secondary Co-operative Education and Internship Program - FAQ

1. What is the difference between a Co-op program and an Internship?

Co-op is an educational program in which classroom instruction is alternated with semesters of work placement and performance evaluation in workplaces related to the field of study.

An internship is on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced workers, designed to give students the required skills and knowledge for entry into a trade or profession.

2. What is the normal duration of the assignments?

A student's academic institution determines the duration of each work assignment. Co-operative assignments traditionally last four months, but internship assignments may vary from four to 18 months. Managers may offer students back-to-back work terms with prior approval of the academic institution.

3. Who should be contacted to obtain more information?

Enquiries concerning the post-secondary Co-op/Internship program in the public service should be addressed to the office of the Public Service Commission Co-op co-ordinator:

4. Where can I find more information relating to student employment?

More information is available on the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) Web site.

  • Student Employment Policy
  • Student Employment Programs in the Federal Government
  • Terms and Conditions of Employment for Students (including rates of pay)

5. Can a student from any Co-op/Internship program be hired?

No. Only those students enrolled in PSC-approved Co-op/Internship programs can be recruited to work in the public service in the context of this program. Those programs are listed on the PSC Web site under "PSC-approved programs."

Where a program encompasses both mandatory and optional work terms, only those mandatory for graduation may be completed in the Public Service of Canada.

6. How do we define the area of selection for a Co-op/Internship assignment?

Since fall 2008, full-time post-secondary positions are subject to a national area of selection for all student programs. When hiring a Co-op student, organizations must consider students from different institutions in order to yield a reasonable pool of qualified candidates.

7. What should organizations consider to define the area of selection of a position for a Co-op/internship assignment?

Organizations should consider:

  • Which academic program(s) will best meet their needs;
  • Whether the Co-op or Internship program is approved by the PSC;
  • That considering students in more than one institution results in a reasonable pool of candidates, including members of designated employment equity groups.

8. Can a non-Canadian student who meets the requirements of the position be hired?


In keeping with section 39(1)(c) of the Public Service Employment Act, preference must be given to Canadian citizens. Accordingly, a work term must be offered to a Canadian student who meets the requirements before the position can be offered to a non-Canadian student.

9. When no Canadians meet the requirements of the position, can non-Canadian applicants, if assessed and found qualified, be appointed?

Yes. In those circumstances, non-Canadians could be considered.

However, non-Canadians who are selected must be legally entitled to work in Canada.

10. Does a learning plan for Co-op/Internship students have to be prepared?

Yes. The TBS Student Employment Policy requires that learning plans be prepared for each assignment. The plan can be tailor-made, or organizations can use the generic plan supplied by the educational institution, combined with a description of the specific assignment. Moreover, organizations are required to assess the student's progress.

Feedback is an important component of the learning process; a learning plan is essential because it sets out the goals to be achieved by students and provides a tool to assess their progress and performance at the end of the assignment.

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