One of the biggest difficulties for co-op employers, co-ordinators and student is employment of first work term students. It is essential that the first job for co-op students be a positive experience; this is critical for the student, the employer, and the co-ordinator. Here are a few tips to help everyone get off to a good start.
- Clearly define the job description, indicating what the job entails, expectations, salary, and what the job might lead to.
- Provide examples of work that first year students have done.
- Wherever possible allow for a “hand-off” from one co-op student to the other. A 2-5 day overlap is desirable.
- Ensure junior students have identified all their skills on their resume. Many times students forget that their extra curricular activities in high school have demonstrated teamwork, initiative, analytical skills, leadership, communication, etc.
- Have students keep a list of questions as they arise during the first two weeks at work and set aside time to discuss them. Extra attention during this first month will pay off in long-term dividends. This holds true for both co-ordinators and supervisors.
- Like all problems there are no quick fix solutions. Long term strategies, identifying and correcting weakness in procedures and keeping your eyes open for opportunities are all necessary.
- More first year students are exposed to co-op in secondary school. In competitive co-op programs, suggest to Faculty Admission committees that they consider this factor.
- Manage expectations of students and parents before they come on campus - work with your secondary school liason people to give a realistic picture of co-op.
- Advise students before they arrive on campus how to prepare for their first work term - update their resume; talk to friends, neighbours, relatives about job possibilities; plan a strategy in case they don’t get a job.
- Closely monitor orientation sessions for potential problem students - constantly evaluate orientation sessions and relationship of attendance to successful employment.
- Give timely feedback on resumes and interviewing skills.
- Schedule group meetings with unemployed students wherever possible to create network opportunities, identify job search techniques, provide emotional support
- Encourage students to actively participate in their own job search.
Systems and Procedures
- Indentify jobs that are especially well-suited to junior students and encourage employers to favour them for these jobs over intermediate and senior students.
- Put up a “Leads Board” where employment opportunities, for one reason or another not suitable for posting in the system, can be advertised for students to follow-up on their own.
- Put student resumes on-line, to facilitate faster distribution to employers.
- Analyze why some employers who participate in interviews do not hire.
- Request that Faculty Admissions committees consider the size of the job market and historical employment rates when deciding how many students to admit to the program.
- During the worksite visit, ask whether there have been changes in the organization that might lead to additional employment opportunities, especially of junior students.
- Talk about junior co-ops in similar companies who have made impressive contributions to their company. Also ask employers if they know of other managers or companies who might hire.
- Provide co-op staff with information on employers who hire grads or summer students so they can be approached about hiring co-ops as well.
- Advertise and include co-op success stories in your Alumni Magazine.
- Contact alumni directly and participate in alumni events.
- Send a letter to all faculty members asking for job leads.
- Maximize students employment with academic and non academic departments on campus. Promote junior students specifically in your marketing literature.
- Distribute job lead forms to parents and other Receptions, Campus Day and Open Houses.
- Ask your High School Liaison Admissions unit to include a “job leads” form in the preregistration package they send to students.
- Emphasize a two work term commitment for junior students.
- Start an employer recognition program for those employers hiring junior students.
Many of these ideas are applicable for all co-op students but particularly so for junior students. A positive beginning will reap great dividends for the remainder of the co-op experience and thereafter.