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These 10 tips can help your organization maximize the co-op experience.
Before day 1: provide background information to the student
Arrange a ‘welcome orientation’
You’ll promote engagement between employees and co-op students. Orientation could include a department walkthrough, an overview of your organizational chart, and a staff-wide introductory email.
Rotate students through multiple departments
You’ll help co-op students build a holistic understanding of company operations.
Allow students to invite senior staff to lunch or coffee
You’ll enhance students’ connection to the company and provide opportunities to learn about your organization’s culture.
Include students during staff meetings and training sessions
You’ll give co-op students the opportunity to practice meeting etiquette and develop a greater understanding of departmental responsibilities. Plus, even if the training isn’t relevant to students’ current positions, you’ll help them learn new skills.
In large organizations, coordinate ‘co-op student coffee socials’
You’ll encourage students to share ideas, experiences, protocols and training.
Facilitate meetings between students and professional contacts
You’ll promote the exploration of co-op students’ career goals and the ways these goals align with your industry.
Involve current students in the hiring of the next co-op student
You’ll give co-op students the opportunity to learn how your organization screens and interviews applicants, and reduce work for the hiring manager.
Include students in extracurricular and social activities
You’ll increase co-op students’ familiarity, comfort and sense of commitment to coworkers and to your organization.
Ask students to complete a presentation about their experiences
You’ll help students develop presentation skills and illuminate opportunities for improvement.
Assign a supervisor
Assign your student a supervisor who will keep track of the projects that the student is working on, outline your organization’s expectations, and mentor the student.
Provide a thorough orientation
Describe your organizational structure and the student’s role. Outline your expectations, including projects or tasks, behaviour and professionalism, confidentiality or safety policies and more, and provide training where necessary. This is also a good time to identify links between the co-op job and the student’s academic program.
Check in regularly
Schedule regular check-ins to assess the student’s work load and progress, provide feedback, and adjust duties and responsibilities as needed. These feedback sessions are also an opportunity to encourage the student to participate in meetings or attend workplace functions to learn more about the organization.
Ask your student about the work term submission
All co-op students must complete a work term submission. Submissions are often about a project or learning opportunity that the student found valuable. Discuss the topic with the student to determine if the content may be confidential. Most submissions are due after the work term has ended and are evaluated by the co-op coordinator. If the submission contains confidential information, you may mark the submission instead.
What if you have problems with a co-op student?
At the first sign of an unusual situation (behaviour problems, medical emergencies, etc.), contact your co-op coordinator, who will work with you to resolve the problem. If you’re considering firing a co-op student, we ask that you discuss your concerns with your co-op coordinator.