Want an almost guarantee of a good job after college? Consider applying to a Co-Op program at a college or university!
Co-Op Programs —an Alternative to Traditional College
Cooperative Programs or Cooperative Higher Education is not new. It has been around for a couple of centuries actually. It is an alternative to the traditional American college experience of four years of classroom education. The co-op model is actually more aligned to the European higher education model. In Europe, many higher education programs incorporate job training and job specialization by the 3rd year of school. Many of the schools take the classroom part of the education to self-study in the 3rd and 4th years and on the job or professional specialization for the last two years. In this way, the European model has people graduated and working in professional spheres much earlier that the American model of education.
The American model has allowed the students to have a “lifestyle” by living and socializing in college. In a way, Americans have extended adolescence to their children for at least 4, some say 6, more years past what is typically considered adulthood in the majority of the world. The American college student is considered a child well into his or her twenties. This model has been popularized and idealized through movies, television shows, and song for decades. Many older Americans feel that college was the time when they had fun and life was carefree. It is a romanticized notion for sure. College is fact fraught with anxiety as it should be…it is a time when students are maturing and making life decisions. That is something to be concerned about because choosing a profession or course to follow is serious business.
Along the way, American colleges have loosened the need for practical work experience and made the emphasis on social life. I read when attending my own college reunion that in the year 2000, the average college student studied about 20 hours a week outside of class, and in the year 2012, the number of hours spend studying was 10. The question put “what are the students doing with those extra hours?” The answer was: social life. Not work, not community service, not even athletics or extra-curricular activities…it was socializing.
Well as the American Recession’s effects have continued in what seems an inexorable manner, there has come to be a call for more exposure by students to actual work. The rise in actual real and pragmatic internships, which are for at least 12 weeks and offer some serious job training and skills, is exponential. Now, a college that does not offer seriously competitive internship programs is losing favor to those that do. Serious internships that require job training and skills are also now the hallmark of those who graduate and get jobs compared to those who are stuck trying to find meaningful work after school.
So the attraction of the Co-Op school is gaining tremendously as we enter into the second decade of stagnant economic growth in the United States. Co-op schools offer one or two years, depending on the school, of practical job internships and programs. The jobs are part of the degree. Some schools require one full year (not a school year but a calendar year) of three different internships of 16 weeks each. Depending on the school, the internships are aligned with the majors. Many have finance; marketing, graphic design, architecture, mechanical and electrical engineering, and now some have health care industry internships.
The internships are applied for by the students. Companies sometimes have a say in which interns they select; some are offered transcripts to review. For others, the interns are sent by the school as it deems fit for the position. Companies benefit tremendously by the presence of eager, interested young workers who can contribute and support seasoned staff. The interns benefit as well because they are expected to be professional workers and learn on the job. Larger companies that participate in the Co-Op programs offer some form of subsidy for housing or rental housing. The interns get paid and are offered some kind of support staff benefits for the 16 week experience. Depending on the location of the company, there might be a need for the Interns to have their own transportation, but usually this is not too much of a challenge for the students.
From my own experience, when I was working in a Fortune 10 corporation, we hired interns all year long from two specific Co-Op colleges. We provided a rental condo for them to share, subsidized meals, remuneration for the work, some interesting educational opportunities-such as tours of plants and facilities nearby-various mentoring at the company, and opportunities for discounts on activities during the weekend in NYC. The other impressive fact about our interns, we always ended up hiring at least two each year to be full-time permanent employees. Yes, it is the one of the greatest rewards of the Co-Op education, a 90% chance of full employment after graduation.
So, not sure if you should consider a Co-Op? Contact us! Let us help you identify and think about the vast number of great Co-Op programs out there for you to choose!