Cooperative education (co-op) is a model of experiential learning that engages students in full-time work as a central component of their college degree program. Antioch College is home to the oldest liberal arts-based cooperative education program in the nation, initiated by educational pioneer Arthur Morgan in 1921. Founded on principles of pragmatism, the program has been a hallmark of an Antioch education for more than 90 years. All Antioch College students currently spend up to one-third of their undergraduate degree program engaged in challenging employment, research, or self-directed enterprises with the College’s substantial network of partners. The College has students available year-round, with different classes engaging in alternating eleven-week co-op terms throughout their course of study.
WHY PARTNER WITH ANTIOCH?
Are you thinking of creating a new position or hiring an entry-level employee? Are you looking for an energetic young person to assist with a special project or support you during a busy season? Making a position available for an Antioch co-op student or convincing a colleague to do so is a great way to become involved in our academic community as well as to contribute to a young person’s education. It is also a cost-effective way to infuse youthful energy into an organization and gain the advantages that come with diversifying the perspectives of your team.
Like most institutions of higher learning today, Antioch College’s student body is diversifying. As of our 2016 fall census, approximately 35% of currently enrolled students identify as people of color, 27% of our young adults are first generation students, and a full 67% of our first-year cohort are Pell-grant eligible. Antioch’s cooperative education program faculty are excited to serve a new generation of students, as future gainful employment is an important consideration for this new demographic.
Antioch College prides itself on its efforts to help students establish themselves in careers and communities of practice that are informed by their co-op engagement. Studies of the impact of cooperative education suggest that programs that involve students in the world of work have a significant impact on the development of professionals that are more entrepreneurial, nationally connected, and acquainted with problem-focused approaches to work.
In reviewing the career development of Antioch alumni, for example, Linn and Ferguson (1999) reported a high rate of self-employment—a fact that should be closely considered as our graduates set out to find a place for themselves in a world where high unemployment and slow economic growth is sometimes regarded as the ‘new normal’. Anecdotal evidence offered by other alumni in various settings further suggests that the co-op experience affords students a competitive advantage as they seek employment after graduation or opportunities for further study. Not only do they acquire the kind of experience that helps fill out a resume, they are exposed to the culture of the workplace, which provides a significant perspective on what it means to live a productive life. We believe that the self-efficacy afforded by real-world experience is one of the clear benefits affecting post-graduation employment in the humanities.
WHAT IS EXPECTED OF THE EMPLOYER?
The College asks the cooperating Employer to treat students as they would their regular employees; however, it expects the Employer to guarantee adequate supervision and provide the support necessary for a student to be successful. In this regard, the following are considered essential components of the relationship:
A safe and supportive working environment – The Employer will designate and maintain a safe workplace and ensure safe operating procedures on its premises as well as in situations where student employees carry out Employer duties outside of the workplace. The Employer is also expected to uphold workplace fairness standards as codified in federal and state law and maintain an environment that is free from harassment and other forms of discrimination as stipulated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Appropriate orientation and clear definition of tasks – The Employer will provide an overview of the organization’s work and explain the areas in which the student is required to contribute. They will provide appropriate training so that the student understands the tasks to be performed. They will also communicate expected levels of performance so that the student knows how their progress will be assessed. The College requests a written job description from Employers before the beginning of the Co-op term. It also asks students to complete with the Employer a written Expectations of Employment and Learning Objectives form in order to facilitate discussion on the educational aspects of the experience.
Adequate supervision – The Employer will assume responsibility for supervising the student during work hours for the duration of the cooperative work term as they would for any other employee. They will identify an immediate workplace supervisor who will provide direction, assist the student with work-related problems and be accessible for questions.
Performance evaluation – The Employer will provide feedback to the student at appropriate intervals throughout the employment term. They will also complete a written performance evaluation at the end of the experience.
Clear communication – The Employer will contact the Cooperative Education Program with any questions or to voice concerns. It also agrees to allow the scheduling of an on-site visit by a faculty advisor.
Notes: Compensation for student work, if applicable, is expected to be paid in a timely manner at the agreed upon rate and in accordance with state and federal laws. Students can be required to sign confidentiality agreements as necessary.
WHAT IS THE HIRING PROCESS?
Prospective employers will be asked to complete a job description form so as to advertise their position with students as accurately as possible. The College will then recruit, screen, and help students submit their resume and cover letter to the employer in order to formally apply for a position. Once a candidate has been introduced and recommended, the employer is advised to contact the student directly in order to gauge their responsiveness and communication skills. They should then interview the candidate to determine whether they are a good match. The College does not set compensation standards, but students should be able to support themselves on wages earned during co-op quarters. Wages starting between $9 to $12 an hour is recommended. Alternately, providing room and board as well as a modest stipend is acceptable. Students already possess health insurance as full-time students. Please contact the College immediately upon hiring a student in order to ensure proper documentation is in order.
HOW TO BECOME AN EMPLOYER?
Making a position available for a co-op student or convincing a colleague to do so is a great way to become involved in our academic community and contribute to a current student’s education. Employers are encouraged to share knowledge of their field, while taking advantage of a program that will help them hire right-fit employees.