Internships are intended to offer students a practical work experience that allows them to discover new strengths and skills to make a successful transition into the job market.
That definition rings true at Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA).
Rachael Ponsen is the latest WDBA co-op student to turn her placement into a full-time job. She has accepted a full-time position as a Junior Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Officer at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in Ottawa.
WDBA ATIP co-op student
Ponsen begins her new job virtually this week, just days after completing two consecutive work terms in the ATIP office at WDBA that began in September 2020.
“I learned more than I ever expected and will be forever grateful for the opportunity at Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority,” says Ponsen. “I was offered a truly hands-on experience that helped me develop new skills and land a new career opportunity.”
During her work term with WDBA, Ponsen was responsible for a number of tasks. She uploaded documents into WDBA’s current software while also supporting the upload and transition to a new ATIP software program. Importantly, she gained hands-on experience by reviewing and redacting records to respond to ATIP requests for WDBA, in accordance with the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act. Ponsen also helped write the ATIP Annual and Statistical Reports, assisted with ATIP training for staff, participated in different WDBA committees and supported internal communications initiatives.
Ponsen, who is originally from Caledonia, is completing her second year of Master of Library and Information Science program at Western University. She plans to complete the program within the next year as she starts this new job. Ponsen says the placement gave her a better understanding of the information side of her degree and offered a view into the world of communications.
She admits that ATIP was never really a career path she considered until she worked at WDBA.
“When I started my Master’s program, my plan was to pursue a career in archives or academic libraries. However, when I was looking for co-op opportunities, my goal was to learn about something new and gain different work experience,” says Ponsen. “I knew the least about the ATIP world, but it seemed like a good opportunity. The fact that ATIP is now a career path for me is a happy accident, one that I am truly grateful for.”
Ponsen is not the first co-op student to use their WDBA placement to land a full-time career.
Kiefer Wright changed faculties following his placement at WDBA and ultimately was successful in competing for a full-time job in the Communications department at WDBA upon graduation.
WDBA Public Affairs Officer Kiefer Wright
at the Canadian site of the Gordie Howe International Bridge.
Bryce Phillips, WDBA’s CEO, is impressed by the high calibre of work that the students do during their co-op term and the effort that WDBA mentors put forth to ensure that students have an incomparable learning experience.
“Students are valued members of the WDBA team and our employees who work closely with the students are to be congratulated for their efforts in helping shape the next generation,” says Phillips.
Since WDBA’s co-op program began in 2016, more than 135 placements have been offered to students from four post-secondary schools. The students come from several different faculties and programs including Engineering, Information Technology, Computer Science and Business Administration.
Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority was recognized with the 2020 Co-op/Internship Employer of the Year honour from the University of Windsor. It’s the third year in a row that WDBA has received the award which recognizes organizations who have created exceptional work term experiences throughout the year.
Despite the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, WDBA continued its co-op and internship programs and provided students with the necessary equipment to work remotely and to stay in touch with their mentors.
Ponsen says that helped her develop new interpersonal skills, such as beginning a new job from home and connecting with colleagues in a virtual environment. She adds this experience will be something she will never forget.
“I did not know anything about the Gordie Howe International Bridge project before my placement, but I feel honoured that I could play a part in this project and I look forward to using the bridge in future years.”