The Co-Op Student Experience at Escarpment Laboratories

For three years now, Escarpment Labs has been hiring talented University Co-op students. I am McKenna Tosh, and I started working at Escarpment Labs as a Co-op student back in April 2019, and was hired on after my Co-op placement ended! 

Hiring university Co-op students is a great way to help support the professional development of undergraduate students, but is also a great way to hire temporary workers during your busy season. To date, Escarpment Labs has supported 7 Co-op students throughout the past 3 years and is looking in the future to hire even more students as we expand. Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, we were in line to hire 3 new talented students to assist us with daily tasks and specialized projects. If you are reading this and you are a student looking for a job in a fun and fast paced environment or are a homebrewer wondering what it’s really like to work at Escarpment Labs, you’ve come to the right place.  

The current Escarpment Labs team

Co-op students make up the backbone of Escarpment Labs, as they are tasked with one of the most critical roles at the facility - handling the yeast! As a former Co-op student, I may be slightly biased in saying this, but the university students are given some of the most important and crucial roles at Escarpment Labs. By having rotational staff performing critical roles, including yeast harvesting, it ensures that each new student is able to provide a  new perspective on these important tasks and help them become as efficient as possible. Co-op students are also given multiple projects that align with their interests, which can include research projects or assisting with marketing and product development. 

At Escarpment Labs, the work of the Co-op students directly impacts a variety of departments. Primarily the students are in charge of harvesting yeast tanks and performing quality control on the yeast during multiple phases of its growth period. These are two very important tasks, which are picked up quickly by the Co-op students. Co-op students are also involved in a variety of smaller tasks that allow Escarpment to run as smoothly as it does. Outside of these tasks the Co-ops have extra time to impact different departments within Escarpment and pick up their own research projects and since the students are involved in both production and the laboratory, become integrated into decision making processes for both departments.

One of the yeast tanks at Escarpment the Co-op students regularly harvest from.

Departments that the Co-op students frequently help out with outside of their daily roles are Homebrew, Quality Control and Packaging. As Co-op students, you are encouraged to assist and to get involved with any department or project run by a senior staff member that you are  interested in. During my work term, I mainly helped out with Quality Control and Homebrew as I wanted to gain more lab experience. I quickly became involved with the external quality control department, even running the department when the department head, Alex Mitro, was away for a brewing conference. I also assisted with homebrew packaging, ensuring a large supply of yeast pouches were available for homebrewers everywhere. 

Aside from the Co-op students’ primary tasks and helping with other departments, Co-op students are also assigned research projects based on their interests and can be in any discipline at Escarpment, including sales, marketing, or research. Personally, I greatly enjoy lab work, so my projects took place within the lab and ranged from PCR projects to experimenting directly on the yeast. Past Co-op students have had projects focused on identifying contamination risks, repurposing expired yeast, reducing CO2 emissions in the facility, and how to expand sales in target markets. Project possibilities are endless (seriously, we are so busy) and make your time at Escarpment even more enjoyable and fulfilling. 

Quality Control work and lab work is an important part of being a Co-op student at Escarpment Labs! It’s one of my favourite parts of the job.

Personally, my Co-op terms spent at Escarpment Labs were my favourite Co-op terms through my academic career. Everyone at Escarpment is very welcoming and I felt like I was applying my university knowledge more, not only during my general everyday jobs but through the projects I completed. Since Escarpment Labs trusts its Co-op students with critical tasks and encourages them to make suggestions to improve processes, you feel like you’re making a difference in the company. Also, having variability in what you’re doing day-to-day and being able to select projects based on your interests help makes each day fun and exciting. As a side note, Escarpment Labs is just a generally fun place to work whether you’re playing Quiplash games at lunch, or dressing up like miners digging for Goldrush Lager yeast during one of Escarpment’s legendary marketing photoshoots - there is a lot of fun to be had during the day.

Everyone at Escarpment is always willing to teach you a new skill, advise on projects, or explain a process in more detail to ensure you learn as much as possible during your work term.

Currently, Escarpment Labs has hired Co-op students from the University of Guelph and McMaster University. If you attend either of these schools, keep an eye out for an Escarpment Labs job posting on your Universities Co-op’s website. With this being said, we are always open to any student from any university (Guelph and McMaster are just close in proximity to us) who is interested in what we do and would like to apply for a Co-op job or summer student position at Escarpment Labs. Simply reach out to our Co-op coordinator, Alex Mitro (alex@escarpmentlabs.com) and let him know what interests you about the company and why! Escarpment Labs is continuing to grow in the coming years and is always looking for eager students to bring new insight to the team.  

McKenna Tosh is a former University of Guelph Co-op student who completed her work term from April 2019 to December 2019. After her work term, we hired McKenna back part-time as a Lab Assistant responsible for hybrid yeast strain development and assisting with the External Quality Control department. This summer McKenna will be joining our team full-time until she heads off to complete her Masters in Biomedical Engineering at Western University.