The Story of Ira Needles
When Ira G. Needles arrived in the Waterloo region in 1925 to take a job as assistant sales manager at B.F. Goodrich, he hid the fact that he was university educated. At the time, the business world considered it “snooty” to have a higher education.
His education didn’t hurt him, however, and Needles gradually rose within the ranks of the tire giant, and by 1951 he was appointed president of B.F. Goodrich Canada.
However, in the summer of 1956, Needles’ two separate worlds – industry and academia – would finally come together in a radical speech he made to the Rotary Club of Kitchener-Waterloo. Needles’ speech would ultimately transform the nature of education in Canada.
During the talk, entitled “WANTED: 150,000 Engineers – The Waterloo Plan,” Needles presented a new kind of education that would involve studies in the classroom as well as training in industry.
Courtesy of the University of Waterloo public library file on Ira Needles
Thank Goodness for Ira
Needles and two others would then go on to found the future University of Waterloo (first known as the Waterloo College Associate Faculties) in 1957 and admit the first 75 students, all of whom were also co-ops. Sixty years later, roughly 80,000 students in Canada enroll in co-operative education each year.
A co-op program has, in my mind, no downside for students, employers, or the institutions that support it. Students apply their learning, test-drive life in industry, fund their education, and return to their studies to challenge some of the theoretical principles based on this experience. Employees, like us, get an opportunity to cement our own knowledge by teaching students and at the same time build a pipeline of young, bright talent. Lastly, demand for an academic institution’s programs grow as the demand for their graduating students grows.
How Do You Measure the Success of a Co-op Program?
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