There is an article in Inside Higher Ed
today praising Co-op education. This caught my eye because even though my school, Albion College
, did not offer co-op education, I was able to participate in a co-op program at General Motors while completing my double-major in economics and music in 4 years. My econ major required two internships, so really I just had a few more internships than my peers.
The author talks about the advantages of the co-op program as introducing students to the business world and forging relationships between universities and businesses, and I think both are true. When I was an adjunct intructor, I found too many business majors who prefered summer jobs as lifeguards, forgetting that this would put them at a disadvantage when they are competing for jobs with other students who spent their summers in cubicles and not in pools. I did learn a lot about how business works--what I liked and even what I didn't like to do in a job.
The only downside of the co-op experience is that all of the experience takes place at one company. This is great if the student knows this is where he or she wants to work, but since I was a double-major, I was not sure, and squeezed in one semester where I combined music and public relations in an internship program in NY City. I ended up going back to General Motors after graduation, but it was for money, not really for love.
All in all, co-op education is helpful for students like me who need help paying for their education and who want to learn what the business world is like. If schools can't make this much of an investment, they should at least be encouraging their students to take internships.