How work-integrated learning helped an AU science grad land his first IT job
Work-integrated learning pilot expanding, now available to all Athabasca University science students
It’s hard to land your first job with no work experience, and it’s hard to get work experience before you’ve landed your first job.
Mishael Magsanoc (Bachelor of Science, Computing and Information Systems Major ’22) had no work experience in computer science before he began studying at Athabasca University (AU), and that made him worry he’d be at a disadvantage after graduating.
But after finishing his degree—complete with some real-life, for-credit work experience—he’s now working at an IT consulting firm.
“I believe the work-integrated learning opportunity helped me find a job,” he said. “If I didn’t do this, the only thing I would have on my resume is working at a grocery store.”
Work-integrated learning at AU
While working on the degree, which he received in July 2022, Magsanoc was able to take advantage of the work-integrated learning opportunities that were then being piloted through AU’s Faculty of Science and Technology (FST). Those opportunities are now available to all science students at AU.
Students can enrol in Computer Science 495 (COMP 495), which allows them to apply what they have learned in the rest of their program to a project or job of their choosing. One option available to students who choose to enrol in the course is to take part in a work-integrated learning project through the Riipen platform.
“I believe the work-integrated learning opportunity helped me find a job. If I didn’t do this, the only thing I would have on my resume is working at a grocery store.”– Mishael Magsanoc (Bachelor of Science, Computing and Information Systems Major ’22)
Hands-on web development experience
For his work, Magsanoc was paired with a startup company called Local Grown Salads on a web development project. He contributed to the creation of the company’s website for about 12 hours per week, over the course of 12 weeks.
“I focused on completing the website, like the visual aspects and the front end. I also actually configured the server management as they were using a hosting service,” he said.
This company was a startup, so he didn’t necessarily work with a mentor within the company. Instead, he was able to take what he had learned in his degree, even if it wasn’t directly applicable, and apply it to learning web-development software like WordPress and domain name system services like Amazon Web Services.
While the experience was not without hiccups and hurdles, Magsanoc said the opportunity to confront and overcome new challenges was invaluable.
“It was a great learning experience. Getting to learn from my mistakes was the best part,” he said.
Support from science faculty
Dr. Vive Kumar, the faculty’s associate dean of research and innovation, helps oversee the Riipen partnership at AU and helps connect students with a work-integrated learning placement.
“It’s up to us to make sure that the students we expose to these companies are a good fit, and the company should also feel that way,” Kumar said. “So there is effort on our part, and the company’s part, to make sure that it’s a good fit.”
The faculty works with every student who approaches them and presents 3 or 4 different opportunities to the students. If the student is interested in any of the projects, they go through the process to apply.
“It was a great experience. Getting to learn from my mistakes was the best part.”– Mishael Magsanoc
Work-integrated learning prepares students for the job market
Kumar said the benefit of work-integrated learning, from his perspective as an educator, is that these opportunities give students an advantage in that they’re not only learning the concepts, they’re applying those concepts in real-world situations right away. This can be a big advantage for students when compared to others who don’t have that experience.
“It’s not just about doing a project, but showing you’re an active and proactive contributor to the problem-solving process and to the success of the project. That’s amazing to see in our students.”
Magsanoc echoed Kumar’s praise for the program, having experienced it first-hand and been hired to his first IT job as a result.
“Overall, I am very happy that I did find a job in the IT industry after graduation and that I participated in the work-integrated learning opportunity because I know that I most likely would not have gotten my current job opportunity without it.”
Learn more about work-integrated learning
Students interested in work-integrated learning can register in COMP 495 and reach out to FST to let them know they’re interested in the opportunity. FST staff then work to provide students with several options through the platform, and make sure students are ultimately connected with the right kind of companies best suited to their interests.