Co-Op Employer Resources
On This Page:
- Co-op Employer, Student, and GVSU Agreement & Plan (form)
- Key Employer Dates/Activities
- Expectations/Requirements (For the students, employer organization, and university)
- What Makes a Successful Co-op Experience
- Co-op Learning Opportunities
If you or your company are looking for more opportunities to get involved, please contact Christopher Babbitt, Career Center liaison to the School of Engineering, [email protected] or (616) 331-6708.
Engineering Cooperative Education Program Key Employer Activities/Dates 2023-2024
During the summer semester, our students begin their first co-op experience. There are opportunities throughout the year when you, as a co-op employer, can be involved with the engineering program. Following are key seasonal activities and rough dates for your engagement with our engineering co-op program:
May – August: Employ new first-semester junior co-ops
- Orientation and foundational corporate learning
May – July: Interview soon-to-graduate seniors and make career employment offers
- Interviews on campus or at employer’s facility
July: Attend Engineering Design Conference and Co-op Employer Appreciation Luncheon
- Employer forum, luncheon, and senior project review – graduation for most seniors
August – December: Employ returning third-semester senior co-ops; make career employment offers
- GVSU Engineering students graduate each August after completion of their senior year, including 3 co-op semesters and a senior project
August – November: Employer Submission and consideration of Senior Project Proposals
August – December: Document interest in hiring from the new co-op class *
- Complete or up-date, and submit your Co-op Job Description to Handshake
October: Practice Interviews with “Pre-Engineering” sophomores in EGR 289 *
- Participate in an on-campus “Speed Interview” session with 20 – 30 students
- Participate in the GVSU Virtual Career, Internship & Summer Job Fair – EGR 289 (Engineering Professionalism) students required to attend *
January – April: Employ returning second-semester junior co-ops
- Additional responsibility compared to first semester
January – April: Interview Engineering students with provisional secondary admit status and make co-op employment offers *
- Interviews at your facility or on campus
February: Participate in the GVSU Virtual Career, Internship & Summer Job Fair employment fair
- Virtual fair using the Career Fair Plus software platform
Industry & Community Engagement
The School of Engineering, in conjunction with the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing (PCEC), is committed to meeting the evolving needs of our collaborators, students, and community. The link below provides further information.
The cooperative education program is a partnership and cooperative effort between the student, the employer and the university. Each participant has expectations, and some requirements, in order to make the experience a success for all involved.
For the Student:
- Complete three work semesters with the same organization. The student can work in different units, groups or facilities within the organization over the course of the three semesters.
- Complete written assignments for each co-op semester (includes keeping a journal of work activities, reading various books and writing reports on them, reviewing and analyzing ethics case studies, and writing an end-of-semester work summary).
- Attend an evening group meeting of all co-op students.
- Complete an evaluation of the co-op semester.
For the Employer Organization:
- For employers that are new to the GVSU co-op program, please contact the engineering liaison at the Career Center, Chris Babbitt, to review the program guidelines and complete an employer, student, and university agreement form, which includes an individual educational plan for the co-op student.
- Provide progressively responsible engineering work within and across the three rotating co-op semesters, culminating in an increasingly progressive design project or experience that is challenging and commensurate with that assigned to an entry-level engineer.
- Assign the student a degreed engineer as a supervisor
- Provide student mentoring to assist in the student's professional growth as an engineer (the mentoring may or may not be provided by the supervisor).
- Be available to host a once-per co-op semester site visit from a GVSU faculty advisor (typically consists of a short, on-site meeting to see what the student has been working on and to discuss the student's progress, relative to the tasks assigned on the initial co-op agreement).
- Complete an evaluation of the co-op semester and share this information with the student
- Provide reasonable compensation for the services provided by the student (no pay rate specified), as it is expected that the student is contributing to real engineering work for the employer (and not simply shadowing or observing). Adherence to this policy ensures compliance with the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
For the University:
- Facilitate the co-op program, including assisting with the hiring process between the student and employer, coordinating the student academic assignments for the semester, and coordinating the evaluation process.
- Assign a faculty co-op advisor to each student for each semester. The faculty member will monitor and evaluate the student's co-op semester and be available to assist the student and/or employer with issues that arise during the semester.
Structuring the Student Co-op Experience
EGR 290 Enrollment with Concurrent Co-op I Workplace Assignment
The first task is to assimilate the student into your organization. Consider the student like any other new employee.
Provide Employee Basics (typically completed prior to student arrival)
- Workspace with chair, filing, etc.
- Computer and company system logins
- Assignment plan
Provide Student Orientation
- Introductions to co-workers & organization
- Company history/overview (include values and vision)
- Company co-op philosophy
- Company co-op goals
- Hire new engineering graduates for long-term talent needs
- Complete productive engineering work
- Review and approval of assignment plan by student and supervisor
- Contribute to the student, university & engineering profession
The major opportunity here is for the student to learn how your company operates and how engineering work is accomplished. The student should be viewed as an apprentice engineer who might not have much experience in an industrial company that performs an engineering function. The learning objectives should include a broad knowledge of your products and services as well as how they are produced in limited prototype quantities and in manufacturing production.
Typical assignments might include working in a model shop/new product prototyping department, working in manufacturing (usually for two to four weeks), working in a test lab or documenting engineering changes for your product designs.
An assignment in a prototype department allows the co-op the opportunity to gain a broad understanding of its contributions to the product development process. Knowledge of the tools and materials used in your products should be obtained. An understanding of the value of quickly building functional and/or aesthetic samples and how they facilitate the product planning process should also be a result of such an assignment.
A short-term “hands-on” manufacturing operations assignment affords a great opportunity to learn how products are produced in larger quantities, as well as introducing the student to the manufacturing employees in a personal, non-threatening way. This assignment can be viewed as a foundation of proper design for manufacturing.
Working in a test lab provides exposure to many facets of the product development process, a wide variety of products and the performance requirements that they must meet. Tasks might include development of new/revised test methods and engineering specifications, automation of existing tests, upgrading of test equipment and verification of existing product test specifications.
By documenting product design revisions the student gains exposure to the product line, as well as the tools and systems used to engineer, revise and document designs. If there is a longer term project in mind for the student, this would be a good time to introduce the project.
EGR 390 Enrollment with Concurrent Co-op II Workplace Assignment
Unless this assignment is in a different department or location (which is a great idea to expose the student to many corporate facets and provide a steep learning curve), this should be similar to the Co-op I experience. Reference the Basics and Orientation sections from the first assignment, and apply as many items as needed for the new orientation. For each rotation, please include an individualized educational assignment plan with clear learning objectives and have it reviewed, approved and signed by all parties involved.
The student should have some previous background and experience and should understand how to navigate the facility and who to contact with questions. The co-op student has also completed a semester of Upper Division engineering courses appropriate to their chosen engineering emphasis (biomedical, computer, electrical, interdisciplinary, mechanical or product design/manufacturing). The tasks assigned in the second semester should be increasingly more challenging with a higher level of responsibility. The workplace plan should be consistent the development in the student’s technical and professional engineering skills.
Project assignments should be considered and appropriately tasked with the proper scope and workload, according to the student’s preparedness and four-month, full-time availability.
During this semester, there are a number of potential assignments that expose the co-op to relevant technical areas where they can apply their developing technical skills. Some of these are manufacturing engineering, industrial/operations engineering, quality engineering, product engineering, and controls engineering.
A manufacturing engineering assignment exposes the student to a broad range of tasks which vary on a daily basis. The student might work closely with a product development team to help design robust, cost effective parts that can be easily manufactured and assembled. They could be assigned a role to improve existing processes or help design new ones with a requirement for quality and cost effectiveness. Floor support, with a focus on solving problems, process control and workplace ergonomics is a potential assignment. The student should gain a good dose of knowledge of how people, machines, tools and fixtures operate to manufacture your products.
An industrial/operations engineering assignment can require the student to be involved with optimization of the manufacturing plant’s ability to make products and meet the overall company’s goals. The scope of the student’s assignment could be focused on work cells, or individual product lines. Improvement of production methods, workplace layouts and production flow to increase profitability and productivity are typical goals. Development, installation and administration of production standards and work incentives to motivate teams towards company goals are also potential tasks. Students will work with a number of functions and levels of your organization to gain agreement and acceptance of ideas and plans that will achieve business goals.
A goal of an assignment in quality engineering should include exposure to all levels of quality assurance and control within the company. This experience should give the student understanding of the impact that each of the engineering disciplines have on one another, and on the company’s business goals. Tasks can include assisting product development teams with robust design methodology, customer issue resolution, product layouts, design of experiment applications and capability studies. Exposure to customer priorities for the company’s products can be obtained through customer site reviews of the product’s applications.
A work assignment within product engineering will expose the student to the company’s product development process, product lines, product functions and product performance criteria. Experience with the creative design process, a systematic approach to solving problems and an exposure to other functional areas, such as marketing, finance and manufacturing can be obtained.
An alternate product engineering assignment would have the student responsible for the design intent of a product line in production. Here the co-op would focus on improvements in the product’s profitability and quality by implementing product revisions, innovative problem-solving and minor product enhancements. At this level, students should be provided exposure to customer-related issues, as well as the manufacturing facility and personnel.
An assignment in controls engineering could be designed to have the student working on both hardware and software designs for automated equipment. At this leve, the student should be responsible for the start-up and debug of equipment they design, as well as offering process recommendations for the new equipment and support for existing equipment in production.
EGR 490 Enrollment with Concurrent Co-op III Workplace Assignment
At this point, the student should be acclimated to the corporate culture, facility, product line (s), and organizational structure. If this is a new department or area for the student, please review the previous orientation sections for the Co-op I and II rotations for suggestions regarding the necessary introductory information. After the basic orientation is complete, be sure to revise the individualized educational plan and learning objectives for the student and have it reviewed, approved and signed by all parties.
This is the last co-op rotation and begins the student’s senior year. The level of technical challenge and professional responsibility should increase, such that the student is considered to be working at the junior engineer level within your company by the end of the semester. The final co-op opportunity should allow the student to specialize in an area of interest, while accounting for the needs of the company, and take on projects of increasing larger scope and responsibility.
Assignments that will expose the student to a variety of products, functions and locations, with a steep learning curve, are some of the key goals of the co-op work assignments. Some companies use many small duration projects that fit within a four-month semester to build a co-op assignment. Some companies will work a student into a longer term project that will span multiple co-op terms. Other companies will rotate students through many parts of divisions of the company to give them a broad exposure. How to structure the co-op in your company will depend on the corporate needs, as well as the needs/interests of the student. Different students may necessitate different approaches to structuring the final co-op experience. The overall guiding principle should be aimed at making the experience a useful part of the student’s preparation and readiness to enter the engineering work force, while engaging them in meaningful and contributory work. At a minimum, the co-op process should be considered as an extended interview process with the potential for a full-time hire of new engineering talent.
What Makes a Successful Co-op Experience
Successful co-op experiences have typically included the following components:
- Student is provided with progressively challenging engineering work.
- Student and employer collaborate to establish goals for each semester.
- Student is given an increasing level of responsibility.
- Employer progressively grows the student from 'apprentice' to an 'entry-level' engineer status over the course of the three rotational semesters.
- Student's knowledge, skills and abilities are utilized in an engineering capacity.
- Employer provides student mentorship to assist in professional and technical development
Co-op Company Philosophy
The Engineering Co-op Program provides the company and the student with the ability to collaborate and contribute to mutual future success.
Co-op Work Experience
The Engineering Co-op Educational Program is structured to provide the student with as much exposure to the corporation as possible while keeping in mind the student’s major field of study and career objectives.
The rotational assignments will give the student the opportunity to network among the company’s employees, vendors, customers, and other co-op students. Co-ops will gain an understanding of the organization’s different functions, as well as, the product development process, manufacturing processes, the company’s products/services, and the interrelationships of the respective departments.
Each work assignment will be relevant to the co-op’s development, and will be reflective of engineering tasks at the company. Co-ops will be provided the opportunity to develop and demonstrate their initiative, judgment, leadership, interpersonal, and problem- solving skills. Co-op students will also be given the opportunity to assume responsibility and accountability for planning and execution of assigned projects.
An individual educational assignment plan should be developed with each co-op student to match the overall corporate and departmental needs with the developing needs and capabilities of the student. Typically a new co-op will start with a Level I assignment to learn fundamental basics about the company’s processes, materials, products and services. Level II assignments will follow to expose the co-op to a variety of relevant areas where they can apply their developing technical skills. Level II assignments will typically build upon the previous experiences, as the co-op is completing their academic degree. Assignments that will expose the co-op to a variety of products, functions and locations, each with a steep learning curve, are some of the key goals of the GVSU co-op program.
For the Student
- The opportunity to learn the operation of a world-class corporation, including internal and external relations.
- A “real world,” productive, hands-on work experience designed to complement the student’s academic program.
- The opportunity to develop and achieve short-term and long-range career objectives.
- A chance to meet students from other universities.
- The opportunity to start building an internal and external network.
For the Company
- A source for a talented, diverse workforce.
- An essential resource for new concept generation and fresh ideas.
- A focused resource for projects and valuable productive work.
- A rich source of technical talent for the future.