The Cooperative Advantage

The Solution…Cooperative Advantage

Articles and opinion pieces discussing Universities and Colleges alike seem to constantly be in the news and going viral on social media regarding the high costs to attend and the inevitable debt that most students incur. At the same time many employers have a high bar to even be considered for an entry level position. I can recall in the early days of my career applying for entry level roles with requirements like:

  • Bachelor’s degree in engineering or technology required – MBA preferred
  • 2 years of technical experience required – 3+ years preferred
  • Leadership experience required

With a high barrier for entry with high associated costs, how can employers and students or employees both win?

Several Universities have implemented a strategy, going back several decades, allowing for a win-win both for students and employers. What strategy? Cooperative education programs, or also known as: Co-ops. We like to call this the Cooperative Advantage; helping students and employers alike.

In 1906, the University of Cincinnati (OH) was the first to implement such a strategy. This strategy or Co-op program has evolved, and today is a requirement for many students depending upon the curriculum of their program or college. Students within The College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) are required to have a minimum year of full-time paid experience as a part of the curriculum. Many students have even more full-time experience, with some having as much as two full years of paid full-time experience before graduation!

Other colleges such as Cornell University and Northeastern University have similar Co-op programs. These programs require students to partake in a professional experience.

At Melink Corporation, we regularly employee Engineering Co-op students. For nearly 5 years, we’ve had great success in developing future leaders in our program, meanwhile providing a boost to our day-to-day operations. Co-ops have delivered unexpected benefits such as keeping us all up to date with the latest trends, whether it be Crypto-Currency or Pokémon Go!

 Don’t just take it from me…

Current Melink Employee: “These students become key members that directly contribute to the team. They assist in many roles such as project management, estimating, sales efforts, and customer service.”

Current Melink Co-op Employee/Student: “This Co-op experience has reinforced the importance of communication and deadlines. My course material may not be easier afterwards, but how I learn, study, and work as a team will be.”

The Co-op experience allows students to get paid and learn more tangible/transferrable skills on-the-job. At the same time, employers have the opportunity to bring fresh perspectives to their team, receive some productivity, and groom potential future employees or even leaders of the company!

Co-op programs are a great solution to the cost of education and barriers for entry level roles. Over the last 5 years, Melink has had about 2 co-ops per year. Our more long-term success rate of hiring these students full time after graduation has been nearly 50%! I ask you, as a student or potential hiring employee to consider the positive impact a co-op program.