The Benefits of a Student Co-Op Partnership

The Benefits of a Student Co-Op Partnership

Last fall, Foresite Group began a partnership with Auburn University’s Cooperative Education Program. The program is set up to be a supplement to an undergraduate’s engineering education. Co-ops are different than interns in that they commit to three semesters with a company, alternating school and work for about two years. For example, I began my co-op in the fall of 2016, was back in class the spring of 2017, am working this summer, attending class in the fall and then returning for my final work semester spring of 2018. This delays a student’s graduation by one year, but provides an invaluable experience for the student and the company.  As the first co-op in our Auburn office, now in my second semester with the firm, I’m getting first-hand experience with the benefits both to myself and the firm that come with a co-op partnership.

Benefits for the Student:

  • Application of theories in the work place
    As an engineering student, it is easy to get bogged down by theories and numerical methods learned in the classroom. But when I come to work I see the application of the information I learned. For example, after taking my Geotechnical Engineering course I was able to help my coworker summarize a geotechnical report which I never could have done without taking the course.
  • Comprehension in the classroom
    Subsequently, I often find myself learning things at work that I then apply to my classes. After my first semester with Foresite Group, I took a course in Hydraulics covering water flow through pipes. Thankfully, I had already been exposed to these concepts at work which helped me ace the class!
  • Professional connections
    As a co-op, I get to work closely with multiple Professional Engineers. I learn from them in the work place and am developing long standing relationships. The professional connections I make now will stay with me as professional mentors and references throughout my career.
  • Financial support for school
    With the cost of education constantly increasing, students need to be creative in how they pay for school. As a co-op, I am delaying my graduation, but I am also staggering my school fees with semesters of paid work which helps cover the cost of my engineering degree.

Benefits for the Company:

  • Supporting the future of engineering
    Companies who hire co-ops get a chance to directly pour into the future of engineering. Foresite Group cares about quality work now and also recognizes the benefit in building up talented engineers for the future. What better way to do that than directly mentoring current engineering students?
  • Teaching and mentoring opportunities
    Adding a new type of employee to a company creates a new positive challenge for others in the office. Co-ops often need more direction and support than other employees which helps give existing engineers the opportunity to teach their trade. As they teach the student, they deepen their own understanding of their work and grow in their ability to communicate and collaborate with others.
  • New talent and enthusiasm
    Co-ops, like any employee, bring new talent to the team. They bring new ideas and new skills with each term. During my most recent school semester, I took a course on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and am now able to bring my skills with the program to my office. Also, as a student, I am very used to working with presentations and reports. Through using those skills every day, I am able to show my supervisors new features on Word, Excel or PowerPoint that they don’t have time to discover themselves.

I am having a wonderful experience co-oping with Foresite Group.  Shorter term internships bring to mind images of making coffee or stacking boxes.  But that’s not the case with my co-op work at our firm.  I committed to three semesters of work that involves real design and real learning. I am so grateful to have been hired by Foresite Group and have been learning so much from my experience here.

About Natalie Palmquist

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Natalie Palmquist is a student at Auburn University and in her second semester as a Co-Op with Foresite Group's Auburn, Alabama office.