On behalf of Northeastern University’s College of Computer & Information Science (CCIS) Co-op Team, we want to thank you for your willingness to sponsor, supervise, and mentor a co-op student. We hope you will find the experience a rewarding one and that the Co-op Program will become a major source of talent for your company.
Taking the time at the onset of establishing a co-op partnership to identify your business needs, selecting key individuals to fill the roles of supervisor and mentor, writing a comprehensive job description, and understanding what students are looking for in an assignment will increase both the success and reputation of your co-op program.
Our students are in high demand. Therefore, a well thought out program will help attract the quality of students you seek, and ultimately the level of students you can recruit. High quality co-op positions lead to winning outcomes: Students are challenged to integrate their academic learning with job related experience and employers benefit from the valuable contributions that students make to the business. We hope the FAQs below answer your questions about developing a quality co-op program.
How Do We Create a Successful Co-op Program?
Development of an appropriate assignment and review process is a critical part of the co-op program. Based on data we have collected over the years from employers and students, we recommend four main components to a successful co-op program:
- A clear and concise understanding of your business needs and how you plan to utilize a co-op student
- A well written description of the assignment
- A detailed work plan, including a defined supervision and mentoring process
- An evaluation process that provides feedback for the company, the student and the co-op faculty
Why is a Developing a Work Plan and Job Description Important?
Instilling a comprehensive work plan can help you and your co-op student utilize your time together the most effectively, and ultimately, better determine if the student sees your company as a place he/she would like to work in the future.
Creating a job description and work plan go hand-in-hand – each should complement the other. Before submitting the job description, think about the work plan that might be used. Likewise, after you develop a work plan, you may want to review the description to ensure that it adequately reflects the work that your co-op student will do and the support that you will provide along the way. Some details to include in a work plan are as follows:
- Provide a detailed project list of tasks, road map and success criteria for the co-op
- Set appropriate expectations and be prepared to allow for changes in the design
- Set a schedule for regular communications and check-ins to see how things are going
- Determine a possible timeline for evaluating progress
Work Plan Suggestions
The following suggestions will assist you in developing a successful work plan.
Assign work that is meaningful:
- Identify projects with clear business purpose that add value
- Incorporate tasks with both short-term deliverables and long-term projects of reasonable length into the job description
- Adjust work assignments and provide different work as a deeper understanding of the student’s needs/abilities/interests surfaces
- Create work that provides the co-op student with broad exposure to the business and people in the organization
- Define achievable success criteria
- Set learning goals that align with the work assignment
- Design technically challenging projects appropriate for a student
Provide the support the new co-op student needs:
- Provide your co-op student with support professionally (e.g. weekly: be a resource, answer questions, problem-solve, set priorities, break down barriers)
- Ask the student to discuss self-reflections regarding strengths, areas for development, and personal goals
- Treat your co-op student like a permanent employee and include him/her in your team meetings, training, company gatherings, and recruiting events
- Be sure the co-op student and mentor/buddy have time to connect on a regular basis. (i.e.: bi-monthly meetings)
- Utilize the resources available through CCIS’s co-op team should you need additional support and ensure appropriate resource support is available
Provide regular, ongoing feedback:
- Formal and informal feedback should be given on a regular, ongoing basis in a timely manner
- While feedback can and should be used to recognize and celebrate successes, giving feedback is also a great coaching opportunity; be specific and share concrete examples regarding particular behavior/action
What Are Quality Assignments?
Based on our research and analysis, we define a quality assignment as:
- Utilizing strong supervision and mentoring
- Capitalizing on the student’s technical, developmental and professional abilities
- The top factors in determining co-op quality have become clear over the last several years through surveying our students. The most important factors to students, in decreasing magnitude of importance are:
Opportunities to learn
- General working conditions
- Problem solving activities
- Being recognized as an individual
- Ability to fully utilize skills
- Ability to see results
What Key Factors Should a Job Description Include?
The job description is such a significant and integral part of developing a quality co-op assignment that we have created a separate document just for that purpose.
Please refer to the Job Description Document for guidance and support.
What Are The Next Steps?
- Review and revise the co-op’s work plan, strengthening it where needed
- Review draft job description and revise as needed based on the completed work plan
- Send us a copy of your job description to proof and post
Co-op is a partnership between the university, the company and the students. We value this partnership and are here to assist with the establishment, development and expansion of your co-op program. We welcome opportunities to help you strengthen your relationship with CCIS, identify points of synergy and areas of collaboration, and grow a long term successful co-op partnership. In this dynamic, competitive, global market, co-op students are a key to the technological future success of your business.
We welcome you as a co-op partner!