Earning what you’re worth New website helps Waterloo students find a great co-op at the perfect price

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Co-op jobs don’t come easily, especially as a first-year student competing for a job experience that offers the right pay.

This year, two UW students have stepped up to the plate to address the challenge.

Dana Iskoldski and Daniel Ben Yona, students in their 3B term, are the co-founders of coopsalaries.com, an online public database designed to aid students in their application processes. Contrary to a job search, this is a salary search for students to “earn what they’re worth.”

Through the domain, students can now search for salaries by entering a faculty,  company, or job position. The search query then returns the average number of hours worked, job location, and benefits.

Salaries on the site range from jobs at companies such as Amazon and CIBC, to government and public service positions.

“When we were applying for co-op positions, it was always this question of… ‘can I even afford to work at this job?’” Iskoldski said.

Location and salary must be taken into consideration before making a decision to accept a position or even enroll in the co-op program in the first place.  According to the University of Waterloo website, first work term earnings across all faculties average at $16 per hour or $9,600 per term.

Co-op jobs are not always conveniently located. Housing in Waterloo comes to an average of $485 per month compared to $729 in downtown Toronto, according to the University of Toronto. That is excluding the estimated costs for transit, which come to $116.75 per month. Increased living expenses are an important factor to take into consideration when accepting co-op jobs.

A student in a regular academic program would be make around $15.38 per hour at a student summer job according to Glassdoor, but may be able to do so from home. Without living expenses factored into the mix, a summer job seems to come out as the financially better option.

However student jobs  have higher demand and greater competition. UW’s co-op program is also extensive and certain job opportunities may be more accessible to UW students through the co-op program rather than during the summer months. Co-op stream models also offer more time for students to work than the regular academic model.

Co-op presents clear benefits over the typical summer job strategy, but only if students are able to find jobs with salaries that don’t send them into financial turmoil. Under the current system run by UW you often do not find out what your salary will be until you’ve receieved a job offer. And under UW’s WaterlooWorks guidelines: once you receieve an offer you have to take it or else you may no longer be able to use WaterlooWorks.

“So, at the start of the summer we were thinking, ‘We’re having this conundrum, how many other people are having it?’” reflected Iskoldski.

Starting up a database for potentially thousands of co-op jobs has proven challenging.

The co-founders explained that neither of them had experience with coding or HTML for setting up a website. After messaging their friends about their salary information for a while, they hit a wall. It was tougher than anticipated to connect with strangers through emails and Facebook posts about a site that, at the time, had yet to be created.

“You just have to trust that people will jump on board and want to participate — and sometimes it didn’t happen,” Iskoldski said.

The pair then took it to Reddit and since then, have received daily submissions, launching the website in mid-September — just in time for the co-op application process.

Currently, the database is comprised of 500+ co-op jobs, and since its launch, has garnered at least 6,000 views.

Following the growing success, Iskoldski and Ben Yona aim to help as many students with their co-op job searches as possible. They plan on seeing where the project takes them before potentially handing it down to the next torchbearer.

“Despite everyone having their own career goals, [UW students] are actually really supportive of each other… if they can help someone else, then why wouldn’t they?”

Graphic by Hershel Nashman