Co-op programs can be a valuable recruitment tool for companies of all shapes and sizes.
However, a successful employer co-op initiative needs to offer a mix of informative training, hands-on work, and fun – and it can be tricky to strike the right balance between the three.
Benefits of co-op programs for employers
- Fresh perspectives. By hiring students on a regular basis, you can take advantage of the continuous supply of new and creative approaches to your business.
- Meet staffing challenges. Is it a busy period for your company? Co-op students can provide support with entry-level tasks and alleviate the strain on your full-time staff.
- Share your knowledge. Get the opportunity to mentor bright and enthusiastic students and share your expertise with the next generation of leaders.
- Tax credits. There are several incentives available for employers to offset the cost of hiring a co-op student. Check your regional government’s website for more information!
Luckily, here at TalentEgg, we get the chance to connect with co-op students from a variety of different organizations and gain feedback on their likes and dislikes. Over the years, we’ve noticed a couple of big trends that contribute to a co-op student’s satisfaction, and success, in their role.
If you want to create an egg-ceptional co-op program, here are the 3 things you need to do.
1) Provide roles with impact
Employers can sometimes underestimate a student’s abilities, leaving them feeling disconnected from their work. However, most university co-op programs have a minimum GPA requirement, meaning that you’ll have some pretty high-achievers on your team. They might not have the work experience of full-time employees, but co-op students still have a lot to offer and want to feel like their role has an impact on the success of the company.
If you can, give students their own projects that they can take the reigns on. For example, energy company Suncor Energy’s senior co-op advisor program gives experienced students the chance to assist new hires with their transition into the work environment. Knowing that their work directly impacts the experience of their peers is incredibly rewarding and helps give students a sense of ownership.
Student Perspective: “When you do something beneficial, you feel like you’ve really accomplished something and that’s great as a student in the workplace.” – David Mazzoccoli, Assistant Development Engineer, Suncor Energy
2) Make them feel like a part of the team
For many students, a co-op term is their first introduction to the workplace. While having a fun informative orientation session is key, it’s also important to make them feel included throughout their time with their company.
Regular team retreats and after-work activities are great ways to inject a little fun into a co-op placement. Also, try to keep an open-door policy between your student hires and their supervisors. Asking for clarification or feedback as a student can be intimidating, so don’t wait for them to come to you! Walk around and talk to them, or even take them out for coffee – it will give them the encouragement they need to open up to you.
Student Perspective: “I love the friendly work atmosphere at IBM! Senior leaders are very supportive and are always willing to offer a helping hand to students and new grads.” – Supriya Ramesh, Strategy and Transformation Consultant, IBM
3) Help them define their career goals.
Co-op programs are eggs-tremely popular among students. That’s because there’s no better way to find out if you’re suited to a particular profession than to dive right in and try it for yourself! This means that as an employer, you play a big role in helping a student determine what they want from their career.
To help support your students’ career growth, follow TJX Canada’s example. They asked their co-op students to create self-directed development plans for their time with the company. This plan was then reviewed by a manager who assigned tasks and projects to each hire accordingly. Not only does this help students get a clearer picture of what they want to learn and achieve during their work terms, it also helps you ensure that you’re utilizing your students’ skills effectively.
Student Perspective: “Co-op students at TJX are not just students. They are treated as a part of the company and that’s the best thing about working here.” – Kiran Choong, Business Analyst, TJX Canada
Co-op programs create a valuable bridge between your organization and a school’s top talent. To take full advantage of it, focus on creating a well-rounded placement that offers hands-on training, self-directed learning, and plenty of room for fun!
Discussion: How does your company create an egg-ceptional co-op term experience for your students?