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[Left to right] 2023 Co-op Employer of the Year Government of Manitoba, and Co-op Student of the Year Johhan Ong with Associates Chair Denise Zaporzan.

Celebrating Co-op 2023 fetes transformative learning opportunities

2023 Co-op Student and Employer Awards announced at annual celebration

February 2, 2024 — 

On February 1, 2024, the 2023 Celebrating Co-op Awards welcomed over 270 co-op students and employer partners to toast to another successful year of co-op education. Sponsored by The Associates of the Asper School of Business, this annual event highlights the Manitoba business community’s dedication to educating the province’s future workforce and awards the 2023 Co-op Student and Employer of the Year.

Johhan Ong is the 2023 Co-op Student of the Year, and the Government of Manitoba is the 2023 Co-op Employer of the Year.

2023 Co-op Student of the Year: Johhan Ong

Nominated by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, Asper finance major Johhan Ong is the 2023 Co-op Student of the Year. 

Ong completed a co-op term as a finance technician at the Government of Canada under the supervision of Andy Kozack, manager (corporate finance and audit coordination). 

In his nomination, Kozack notes how Ong’s communication skills, emotional intelligence and willingness to collaborate led to an exceptional student-employer relationship, all while his demonstrable finance acumen contributed positively to the organization.

“Our organization is incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Johhan. Personally, it was a pleasure managing him for the period that I had him. He contributed to an increase in morale during his co-op by contributing to the charitable campaign, being active at team meetings and taking on responsibilities that helped his colleagues.”

[Left to right] Director BRM Finance Serge Bisson, Co-op Student of the Year Johhan Ong, Manager Corporate Finance & Audit Coordination Andy Kozack

Ong participated in the annual Government of Canada charitable campaign in partnership with United Way, developing and giving a presentation to all staff, including senior management, with record attendance.

“It was an opportunity for meaningful work, and our collective efforts raised over $40,000 for the Winnipeg community, propelled by the principles emphasized by the Asper co-op program in implementing the UN’s SDGs into business practices,” says Ong.

In his co-op impact reflection, Ong describes how family expectations to determine a career path created a high-pressure decision in choosing his major, until he discovered the co-op program, which allowed him to explore his passions and interest in business.

“Co-op education has been transformative in my journey as a student, employee and individual, shaping my personal and professional identity,” he says. “Its positive impact extends beyond academics, inspiring me to face the future with optimism and a willingness to explore.”

As the first Asper co-op student in this directorate, Ong appears to have created a lasting impression as the 2023 Co-op Student of the Year.

2023 Co-op Employer of the Year: Government of Manitoba

Nominated by Asper co-op student Dharmil Patel, the Government of Manitoba is the 2023 Co-op Employer of the Year. Donna Sulz [BComm(Hons)/96], Director of Total Rewards and Travis Hoemsen, Director of Talent Acquisition from the Public Service Commission, accepted the award.

Patel, who completed his co-op work term as a total rewards intern, describes the exceptional mentorship and inclusivity he experienced at the Government of Manitoba.

Director, Talent Acquisition, Public Service Commission Travis Hoemsen, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies Robert Biscontri

“The organization not only offers a diverse and impactful work experience, but also values the contributions of co-op students as integral team members. They provide opportunities to work on meaningful projects, engage with senior management and develop essential skills for the future.”

His primary responsibility was managing an accessibility project, which was intended to ensure that accessibility considerations are integrated into policy development to benefit all Manitobans.

He notes how this project was emblematic of a broader commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion that was evident throughout the department and inspired his own passion for public service and creating positive change. 

The 2023 Co-op Employer of the Year represented excellence in co-op education. In Patel’s words, “participating in the co-op program at the Government of Manitoba has been an immensely transformative experience for me, profoundly impacting my personal, academic and professional development.”

Asper Co-op Program

Accredited by CEWIL Canada, the Asper School of Business Co-op Program is the largest business co-op program in the province. Co-op placements offer students a chance to gain practical experience in the workforce while pursuing their studies.

According to 2022 Asper Employment Report, 98% of Bachelor of Commerce co-op students were employed full-time within three months of graduation, and 87% of Asper BComm graduates had secured employment in Manitoba. 

The Asper Co-op Program also earned recognition from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business’ (AACSB) Innovations That Inspire program in 2023. AACSB highlighted the co-op program’s integration of the UN Sustainable Development Goals into the co-op curriculum, engaging students’ drive to make positive change from the very start of their careers.

Above all, the program is committed to connecting talented Asper co-op students and employers in Manitoba, Canada and around the world, and the annual Celebrating Co-op is an opportunity to renew this commitment and honour these connections.

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