Time Saving With Added Benefit
Group Intake Interviews
Co-op practitioners will agree that intake interviews are an integral part of a student's introduction to the Co-operative Education process. In the traditional one-on-one format, they can also be time consuming, repetitive and frustrating, leaving us wondering if we have in fact gained any knowledge of the individual students', strengths, challenges, needs, expectations, or understanding of Co-op. Group intake interviews were initially piloted at Camosun College as a time-saving measure, but the initial pilot had unexpected positive outcomes that went far beyond simply saving precious minutes!
Intake interviews are conducted in a small meeting room with 5-6 students participating and the Co-op Coordinator facilitating. Each student completes a simple form before the interview, and brings it to the interview to refer to during the discussion. The form is made up of questions that the Coordinator might normally ask during an intake interview such as: "Tell us a little about yourself, including things you are really good at and areas where you need to improve.", "How are your studies going? Please indicate which courses are your favorites, and any courses which you may be having difficulty with, and why.", "Why do you wish to be in the Co-op program, and what do you expect to get out of it?", and "What kind of work are you interested in for your work term(s) and what are your salary expectations?". Students discuss and share their answers to these and other questions, while the Co-op Coordinator facilitates the discussion, explains the Co-op process and answers questions generated by the group.
The results? Obviously, the process IS time saving, with Coordinators spending approximately 75% less time in the intake interview process. But the other, unexpected benefits of group intake interviews are much more valuable! Students gain a much clearer perspective on Co-operative Education by hearing the answers to others' questions, discussing experiences, expectations and aspirations with other students, and having an opportunity to share information and begin building a network. Coordinators gain a much clearer understanding of individual students' interpersonal, leadership and communication skills by observing how they interact in a group situation. Students pull each other into reality much more effectively than a lecturing Co-op Coordinator on topics such as salary expectations, competition, opportunity, and the importance of a positive attitude and professional presentation.
Group Post-Employment Interviews
After observing the positive outcomes of group intake interviews, the Co-op Coordinators at Camosun College wondered if a group format for post-employment interviews might be equally beneficial. Coordinators had found that one-on-one post-employment interviews ran the risk of dissolving into 'gripe sessions', with the student focusing on personal details rather than the larger picture of what had been learned and what experience had been gained. Was it possible that de-briefing with a group of peers, with a Coordinator present to facilitate and maintain focus, might generate more constructive and positive reflection?
Group post-employment interviews are also conducted in a small meeting room with 5-6 students participating and the Co-op Coordinator facilitating. Before coming to the interview, each student completes a written form to refer to during the discussion. The form is made up of questions that the Coordinator might normally ask during a post-employment interview such as: "How accurate was the posted job description and the information you received during your interview?", "Describe your orientation to the company and your job related training.", "How suitable was this job to your training needs and career goals?", "Which aspects of the position were the most beneficial?", "What skills learned in your academic terms were applicable to this job?" and " What skills could your program provide which would better prepare a student this job". As in group intake interviews, students discuss and share their answers to these and other questions, while the Co-op Coordinator facilitates the discussion, keeping it focused on what learning took place in the work term, and how adequately the program prepared students for the various roles they filled in the work place. Students with personal or confidential information to discuss are, of course, invited to book private appointment with the Coordinator.
The results? Again, an immediate recognizable result was that Coordinators spent considerably less time in the debriefing process. At the same time, the students themselves reported that the insights they gained by listening to the experiences of their peers helped them to put their own experiences into a large context. Students who might not have seen the relevance of a particular course to their own Co-op job, could see that it was useful for other students in other roles. Coordinators were also able to provide feedback to instructors and program leaders from group discussions of course relevance to the work place. Coordinators who may at one time have approached the post-employment debriefing with some amount of foreboding, now look forward to the positive and learning directed environment of the post-employment group discussion.
Group Intake Interviews and Group Post-Employment Interviews began as a time-saving measure but have become a dynamic and interactive part of the Co-operative Education experience at Camsoun College. They are now used in all 10 of our Co-op programs in the School of Arts and Science, Business and Trades and Technology.