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Getting Started

1. Locating, Approaching, and Selecting Prospective Work Sites
The first step in setting up a cooperative work experience is finding individuals and organizations who are willing to take on the responsibility of working with a student. Many districts mail interest forms to different organizations within the community to establish a pool of possible work sites. Students may also identify possible sites on their own. The cooperative work experience program depends on the maintenance of a pool of prospective work sites that match up with student educational and career objectives. Successful work sites are a valuable resource that can be utilized over and over again.

Locating Suitable Training Stations:

  • From community surveys, student surveys
  • Through the advisory council
  • Through administrators and counseling offices
  • Through trade associations, Chambers of Commerce, unions, service clubs, etc.
  • By observation while walking or driving through the area served by the school/college
  • Businesses that cooperated as training stations in previous years
  • Businesses that presently employ students

Approaching Possible Training Sites:

The pre-approach:

  • Personal contact with individual employers is absolutely necessary
  • A file should be maintained for each business on which you will have any occasion to call
  • Information you should have before the call, in addition to the community survey, should include:
    • Who does the hiring with permission from whom?
    • Whom will you be interviewing?
    • What special interests the person has?
    • If a chain, name of parent organization; names of officers in top management; chain's connection with cooperative education
    • If they have employed cooperative education students in the past
    • How long the company has been in existence in the community
    • Unusual practices; "firsts" to its credit

    Preparing for the interview:

  • Specific points the employer and training sponsor must know about the nature and scope of the program:
    • The objectives of cooperative education
    • That the primary function of the training station is to train the student
    • That the monetary wage will be the same as any employee of the same level of employment and that this amount may be increased in proportion to their productivity
    • That the student is enrolled in classes/seminars that are directly related to his/her work
    • That this is best done by way of a progressive training plan worked out by the sponsor and the teacher-coordinator
    • That periodic ratings based on the training plan and the development of the student-learner discussed between the teacher-coordinator and the training sponsor and any problems existing should be brought to the attention of the teacher-coordinator at the earliest time
    • That candidates for part-time employment have had vocational counseling at the school during which they have determined tentative career objectives

    Selecting Criteria

  • The needs of the student-learner should be a major factor in selecting training stations
  • The training station should be located conveniently for transportation purposes
  • The industry or business should enjoy a reputation for integrity and progressiveness
  • The manager should understand cooperative education and the part his/her industry or business should play in student training
  • Management should agree to continue a student's on-the-job placement throughout the year unlessthe manager and the teacher-coordinator agree that termination is desirable
  • Management should be willing to allow time for the instruction of student-learners and conferences between the training sponsor and the student-learner for whose training he/she is responsible

2. Placing Students
Student placement in cooperative work experiences can be arranged by either the school or the student. Connecting students with work sites that will meet their needs and provide relevant experiences is the most important aspect of planning the COOP experience. Employers will want to interview prospective coop students to ensure a good match. Programs may allow students who are already employed at a job relevant to their studies to earn COOP credit for their job experience, provided that the COOP coordinator formally approves the site.

3. Arranging Schedules
The COOP supervisor and student should arrange a work schedule that is convenient for both of them. It is best if the schedule is consistent from week to week so that the work site can prepare meaningful work experiences for the student and reinforce positive work habits.

4. Confirming Plans
Students should contact the work site supervisor to confirm arrangements and answer any questions he may have about the program.

Preparing Work Site Supervisors
Work site supervisors must be thoroughly prepared for the cooperative work experience. Make sure that they are aware of everything that they are expected to do. Many districts prepare a handbook for work site supervisors which contains a combination of the following:

  • An overview of legal responsibilities

    There are may legal issues that work site supervisors need to be aware of, such as safety concerns and child labor, discrimination and sexual harassment laws. Make sure that work site supervisors understand their legal responsibilities and potential liabilities in advance.


  • Instructions for working with young people

    Many professionals are unaccustomed to the unique challenges of communicating and working with young people. Remind work site supervisors that they many be faced with student attitudes and expectations that may seem unrealistic in the workplace. Encourage hosts to provide as many active learning experiences as possible.

  • Activity suggestions

Remind work site supervisors that the purpose of COOP is to provide students with an environment where learning can take place. Encourage supervisors to allow students to participate in as many learning activities as possible, especially those activities which offer an opportunity to develop workplace skills.

  • Checklist

Employers will probably find a checklist very useful. Checklist items might include: arranging meeting times, planning with the program coordinator to insure that academic requirements are met, signing COOP agreements, arranging student work space as appropriate, and informing students about company policies and procedures.

  • Evaluation materials

Employer response to the COOP program is essential for maintaining a successful operation. Provide employers with forms on which they can evaluate student participation, as well as the program itself.