Creating a Great Co-op Experience: [Part 1] Introductions, Rules and Learning Objectives

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Creating a Great Co-op Experience: [Part 1] Introductions, Rules and Learning Objectives

By: carose
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The following article is the first in a three-part series on how Co-op supervisors can make the most of a Co-op experience with their student.  This article was initially published on the SFU Beedie School of Business Career Management Centre's enewsletter March 2012 edition.

Part I: Introductions, Rules, and Learning Objectives

It’s the first day on the job for your eager Co-op student--imagine how nervous she must feel! For many students, a Co-op work term is their first professional job and the pressure to make a good impression can be overwhelming. A warm welcome from you, which includes introductions to all staff members in the office, will help your Co-op student overcome any jitters and go a long way in making her feel like part of the team. When introducing staff members, make sure to include their position title and role. By having this information, it becomes easier for your Co-op student to know who to go to when questions arise.

Some Co-op supervisors like to plan a first day get-together to introduce the student to staff, while others prefer to assign someone to take the student around to meet each staff member (this can also serve as a workplace tour). Regardless of how introductions are conducted, know that the effort will go a long way at setting a positive tone for the work term.

After introductions, set aside time to discuss company policies. Many supervisors start by describing the role and work of the department and the structure of the company, including its principles and philosophy. Other items to address may include departmental expectations and practices, as well as policies around confidentiality, dress code, work hours, and lunch and coffee breaks.

The last item to discuss is the Co-op student’s learning objectives. Students are required to prepare at least four learning objectives at the beginning of the Co-op semester. Not all of a student’s job duties need to be reflected in the learning objectives, but it is expected that the most significant activities are covered.

Although the learning objectives are completed by your student, she is encouraged to come to you for input. Keep in mind when guiding the student through her learning objectives that the items should reflect a combination of the job description, your expectations, and the student’s own learning. Once the draft objectives have been discussed, the student is responsible for writing her final objectives, which you should also review. Students should keep the original document and provide you with a copy to keep on file.

Caroline Wakelin is an Associate Director with the SFU Beedie School of Business Co-operative Education Program.  She has 13 years of experience helping students and employers make the most of their Co-op relationship.

Posted on March 29, 2012