Finding outstanding co-op employers has never been easier thanks to recent market shifts and exciting trends for the future, but it has also never been more complex thanks to the shortage of workers and the increasing challenges that recruiters are facing. Landing a new co-op employer is still a great thrill unless you discover they aren’t interested in your student’s learning, or they can’t make payroll or they won’t let you on-site for a visit or they treat employees poorly.
At the Dalhousie Technical Coop Office we are developing a process for vetting employers that is based on vetting both the employer and the job by using a checklist for both outgoing and incoming employer development call. It is still a work in progress but here are some questions designed to help you prevent nasty employer surprises before they get a student on site.
You can use these questions at the different stages of the relationship building process including: prospecting, needs analysis, job posting, post hiring and post work term. Hopefully they will help you successfully select new employers or at least get a sense of where trouble may lie in the coming relationship.
1. Prospecting stage: What do you need to know about a company before you approach them or if they approach you?
- Do their work activities match your programs?
- Do they have engineers on site and if so what are their titles?
- Where are their primary business sites?
- What are their current recruiting activities?
- Do they have any alumni?
- Are they publicly traded?
- Are they registered with their provincial professional engineering association?
- How long have they been in business?
- Who are their clients?
2. Need analysis stage: Does this employer have the willingness and ability to meet your needs and vice versa.
- Why are they interested in participating in coop?
- Have they hired coop students before? If yes, from which schools and what worked and didn’t work for them?
- Do they have Professional Engineers on staff?
- If no, why do they want an engineering student?
- Can they provide you with a reference from schools where they have hired?
- What is the work they need a student to do?
- What will the student learn from that work?
- What will their organization get from having that work completed?
- Are they willing and able to treat this placement as an educational experience for the student?
3. Job Posting Stage: The job description is proposed by the employer and the employer responsibilities are proposed by you.
- Is the nature of the work appropriate for your students?
- Are learning outcomes articulated?
- Are the wording and application instructions clear?
- Are the terms of employment clear and appropriate?
- Is the employer clear on their responsibilities?
- Is the employer able to meet the responsibilities?
- If no, what are the problem areas and how can we remedy them?
4. Post Hiring Stage: Now that the employer has his first student at the workplace the vetting process continues normally through the site visit. The basic question to answer is would we want this employer to come back next term?
5. Post Work Term Stage: Before the next job posting comes along a final vetting step can be done through the student debriefing. Do we still want this employer to come again?
As you can see the vetting process runs in parallel with the whole employer relationship cycle. In fact we have discovered that it needs to go beyond the first round of contacts in that we need to continually review job postings from existing employers to make sure they still meet our requirements. But all of this is what makes co-op such a dynamic and interesting enterprise so enjoy the challenge of incorporating successful vetting practices.