College co-op programs offer students an excellent opportunity to combine theory and practice by taking the knowledge and skills learned in a classroom and applying it to the real world. Since relevant work experience is one of the first things an employer will look for on a resume, participating in a college co-op program provides students with a definite advantage.
What Employers Seek in New Job Candidates:
In today’s world, going to college is not enough. I work with many students who do very well in their college courses but still find it extremely hard to find a job once they graduate. Having a college degree today does not ensure that employers will hire you immediately after graduation. When you look at experience or qualifications for any job listing, you will see that many employers look for several years of relevant job experience for candidates applying for a job.
What are sSome of the Frustrations that College Students Face?
I sometimes have students come to me who are very frustrated because they don’t meet the qualifications of any of the jobs they are interested in pursuing. They often say, “I don’t meet the requirements listed for any of the jobs I'm interested in applying to; yet how am I going to get the experience required if no one will hire me?" One of the best ways to get around this dilemma is to work hard during college to make sure you get the requirements to meet the qualifications that employers look for when seeking candidates to fill their open jobs.
Getting Relevant Work Experience by Doing a Co-Op.
Although there are many ways to get relevant experience prior to graduating from college, co-ops offer extensive full-time paid opportunities where students can learn to really hone their skills. Co-ops are woven into the academic curriculum and the more you learn and advance your skills, the more challenging your assignments will become as you get the chance to work in a real-world situation. Over 500 colleges and universities offer co-op programs to their student, which usually requires an additional year of college. Although attending college for an additional year may not seem attractive to some students, that one extra year provides a way to make money while giving students a leg up on landing full-time employment due to the experience they’ve gained on the job.
Co-ops provide great exposure to various career options and add depth to what students are accomplishing in the classroom. Not only do students gain valuable experience by doing a co-op, they also develop a broader understanding of the work world and have an opportunity to find ways on how to apply their skills and accomplishments to help contribute to the overall mission of the company. Co-ops, like internships, also give students a chance to do some career exploration and find out more about what they really want to do after graduation.
Additional Advantages of Doing a Co-Op Program:
Another advantage of participating in a co-op, is that both the student and the employer have a vested interest in making the experience a success. Since the employer is actually paying the student to do the job they will also work hard in making sure that the student gets the right training and support in order to do the job to the best of their ability. On the other hand, the student will see the co-op as a way to make some additional money while getting the real-world experience necessary to get a job and therefore will work hard to ensure that they do the best job possible during the months they are actually on the job. One of the disincentives in doing an internship is that oftentimes they are unpaid.
One of the major advantages of doing a co-op is that a large percentage of students get offered full-time jobs by their co-op employer. For those who do not get hired on by their co-op employer, it is estimated that approximately 95% of students who have completed a co-op experienced will be hired for full-time employment following graduation. A co-op experience is definitely one of those things that will make your resume stand out among the many competitive candidates that you may be competing with for the same job.