- What is it?
- What are the benefits to students?
- What’s the classroom component of the program?
- Is this program for everyone?
- Can a student use the job he/she already has as a co-op for credit?
- When should a student plan to do co-op?
- What’s the next step?
What is it?
Cooperative education is an academic program that assists students with placement into both paid and unpaid work experiences that are directly related to your area of study and for which they can earn three academic credits. Students in paid work experiences (co-ops) are required to perform a minimum of 300 hours of on site work, and students in unpaid experiences (internships) must complete 150 hours at the work site. All students in the program are required to register for a co-op seminar course that meets for one hour each week throughout the semester (two hours each week in the shorter summer session) that supports the field experience.
What are the benefits to students?
There are numerous benefits to students who participate in this program. The most obvious is the work experience that they gain. Employers seek out graduates who have done internships and co-ops, and give them preference over students without any related work experience. In addition, students who are in the workplace are making contacts in their profession that are very helpful during job searches, acting as references and as networking contacts. Some students appreciate that co-op offers a chance to see what their career choice is really like. Most students who hold paid positions and some students in internships are offered long term employment at the end of their work experience obligation. One by-product of work experience is that many students report a substantial increase in their overall feelings of self confidence and self esteem.
What’s the classroom component of the program?
Students attend co-op seminars designed to develop their employment related skills. The co-op class is offered at varied times every semester, including summers, and includes weekly topics like time management, conflict resolution, sexual harassment, career development skills, and others that are intended to strengthen job performance and enhance professional development. The class is also designed to support the student in their work experience role, so there is time available for discussion with the class and the instructor on how to deal with issues students may be encountering in their placement. The course instructor visits every site during the semester and interviews the supervisor about the student’s progress. The site supervisor also completes an evaluation of the student’s performance at the end of the semester which is considered, along with class assignments and attendance, in determining the student’s grade for the course.
Is this program for everyone?
No. A student must be enrolled in one of the twenty programs here at the college that offers co-op, have a GPA of 2.0 or better, and have completed a minimum of 12-15 credits in their field along with any prerequisites in the department. They also need the permission of their program coordinator, who will meet with the student and make an assessment of whether they are ready for this type of experience. Students also need to consider their availability for this type of experience. If a student is attending school and working full time, or has other significant social or family responsibilities, they may have difficulty finding the time required to fulfill the obligations of this course.
Can a student use the job he/she already has as a co-op for credit?
Maybe. If their job is clearly related to their academic program, there’s a good chance they can work where they are and earn academic credit. The program coordinator from their academic department will make that assessment after the student turns in a job description form to the Co-op Office. The student will also be required to demonstrate new learning at their current position by taking on additional responsibilities or projects during the term of the co-op.
When should a student plan to do co-op?
Setting up co-ops and internships takes some planning. The process requires finding an appropriate placement for each student that fits into their school schedule, geographic location and academic interest. The jobs that may be appropriate for students start becoming available about the middle of each semester for the following semester. If a student has made contact with the co-op office by this time, they will have access to all the positions that are posted with us. As the semester progresses, those positions begin to fill and fewer opportunities are open. For that reason students are strongly encouraged to think about co-op early in the semester before they want to perform their work experience.
What’s the next step?
Every student who applies for a co-op or internship position through the cooperative education program meets individually with the director to finalize a resume and make specific plans for placement. The Cooperative Education office is located in the Student Services Center, L127 ; 860-512-3312