Friday, June 29, 2012

Co-Op Education Can Make It Easier to Transition to the Workplace

Cooperative education, or “co-op” education, combines education with practical work experience. Co-op education programs are offered at the high school and college level. Some institutions have built strong reputations for being co-op focused; in fact, it’s what sets them apart, for example Georgia Institute of Technology or Kettering University in Michigan.

Co-op programs enable students to gain academic credit, and in some cases, modest compensation, in return for their work. There are different co-op work arrangements; one of the most common involves an alternating schedule between class-course semesters and work semesters. Another popular co-op arrangement has students taking a few courses while working simultaneously.  Some co-op programs are summer-based only: students work during the summer break and then returns to school in the fall.

Most of these programs try to place students in jobs that are related to their areas of study and fields of interest. Some may require students to maintain at least a 2.5 GPA and may only consider students who exhibit certain desirable traits, such as leadership or an interest in community involvement. Co-op students are typically matched with faculty advisors who work with the students to set individual co-op goals and monitor and evaluate student performance.

Through a co-op education, students can gain valuable job skills that are desirable to employers, like critical thinking, problem solving, organization, time management, and teamwork. Students can also acquire skills that can be helpful in a future job search, for example creating a resume and interviewing.

In summary, a co-op education is a great way for students to make the connection between the classroom and the work world while testing their skills and aptitudes as they explore a field of interest.

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