Michael J. Bonneville
Professor Stephanie Wallace
10 February 2014
Cooperative education (Co-op) is becoming more abundant in the curriculum of college and university degree programs within recent years. With a strong focus on gaining field experience, this form of education helps students cross the boundary from classroom learning to the real world. Co-op focuses on developing general employment skills and provides a head start for students in achieving their career goals (Wilton 603). Although not without it’s faults, the program has received positive results from employers, students and educators alike. It is no wonder why post-secondary institutions are rushing to ensure that students have some type of co-op or work placement in their study program.
Career uncertainty is a thought that goes through the mind of many young students that are attending college or university. “When students commence university studies, they typically choose subjects that are of interest to them, and hold only vague notions of intended career paths” according to a study done by Zegwaard and Cole (282). This is why cooperative education provides a great base for defining a student’s career choices. The co-op placement gives the student a taste of the real world without having to fully commit to a specific field. For example, if a student is enrolled in the George Brown diploma program for Business, he or she may decide they want to specialize in accounting. Without any hands on experience, the student may graduate school and acquire a position with an accounting firm. After a few weeks or months, he or she may find that profession is not to their liking. If the student had enrolled in a co-op program, they may have already discovered this during their first work placement term. During their second term, they may have opted to try a different field and realized that project management was much more fitting to their personality and abilities.
Another benefit of cooperative education is the knowledge gained from the co-op prep program—a program that guides them on how to properly prepare themselves for land their work placement. In an interview I conducted with Aman Darred, a former Simon Fraser University co-op student in the Business Administration program, he discusses the role this course had in securing his work placement. “My favorite part of the prep program was the resume and interview preparation. They showed me how to make my resume stand out, prepped me for the type of questions they were going to ask, and [explained to me] how to properly answer them. It was definitely beneficial in helping me land my job at RIM (Research in Motion), but it’s also something I’ve learned that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life.” Aman went on to complete an eight-month work term at RIM as a Project Coordinator in their Ottawa office. He also had the opportunity to apply internally for a permanent position once his placement was over. He stated, “If it wasn’t for my commitments back home [in Vancouver] I would still probably be working there.”
For some students, the transition between school and the working world can be overwhelming. There is often a gap between what students learns in the classroom, and what they can contribute to the work place. Co-op programs helps combine the hard skills developed in educational institutions and with the soft skills needed to succeed in the working world. As students become more involved in their work placement, they begin to develop the professional behaviors associated with their working environment. This development can be attributed to a combination of observation and situated learning. By observing and learning from coworkers, the gap between school and work begins to close. They start to pick up work place terminology and learn to implement methodological techniques that are specific to their job placement (qtd. in Zegwaard, Cole 283). The analytical and critical thinking...
Cited: Darred, Aman. Personal Interview. 8 Feb. 2014
DelClou, L. Sattler, P. and Peters, J. “The University of Waterloo and Work Integrated Learning: Three Perspectives” Higher Education Quality Counsel of Ontario (2013): uwaterloo.ca 22-103 Web. 8 Feb. 2014
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Wilton, Nick. "The Impact Of Work Placements On Skills Development And Career Outcomes For Business And Management Graduates." Studies In Higher Education 37.5 (2012): 603-620. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 Feb. 2014
Zegwaard, Karsten E., and Richard K. Coll. "Using Cooperative Education And Work-Integrated Education To Provide Career Clarification." Science Education International 22.4 (2011): 282-291. ERIC. Web. 9 Feb. 2014
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