Why Cooperative Education and Internship Programs: A Trifecta of Benefits

Long gone are the days of students working at the local grocery store when they come home for break. Today, the focus is to find an internship or co-op so they can land a better job upon graduation.

Students who participate in co-ops stop taking classes​ to work full time and are usually paid. Universities with required co-op programs usually expect students to complete at least two practical learning experiences​ throughout a three to six-month period.

Internship programs can be paid or unpaid and can last for a shorter period of time.  They offer a lot more flexibility and can be done in the summer when students are out of school. ​

Whether it’s a co-op or internship, students aren’t the only ones working hard to land these coveted roles. Both are really a three-pronged approach, bridged between the employer, the student and the academic institution, with mutual benefits for all.

Employers can capitalize on fresh new ideas from the latest wave of talent, career centers receive practical input from the professional community, and students gain hands-on experience in their preferred area of study. By understanding just how impactful co-ops can be for each group, career centers and employers can gain deeper insights into how they can position their programs.


Landing a career after college can sometimes prove to be a daunting task for students. With so many options, many people don’t know where to begin. A co-op or internship is the ideal starting point. Here’s why:

  • Co-ops offer students real, hands-on assignments outside of the classroom so they can understand exactly how their role fits into the company
  • These programs help students decide if they’re a strong culture fit for the company because they can experience meetings and interactions first-hand
  • Students are paid competitively showing them that their skills and time are valuable


“Co-ops and interns are extremely valuable to both companies and students. Companies get to ‘try before they buy,’ and that's a big benefit to any company. Students get the chance to see what their vocation really consists of before they get too far along their career path,” says a Senior Program Engineer for Hewlett Packard. Let’s take a look at some of the many benefits for employers:

  • Co-op employment aids in the vetting of students for future hiring, reducing the expense of recruiting costs
  • Co-op students are great for inexpensively filling temporary staffing needs during short-term projects
  • Employment of co-op students gives a supervisor the opportunity to mentor bright and enthusiastic students
  • You’ll create a sense of helpfulness as the community learns of your support of local college students

Career Centers

NACE reports that employers converted an average of 51.7% of their eligible interns into full-time hires in 2015. This looks great for career centers, when their co-op programs show such a high ROI. There are also some other benefits to consider:

  • Increased enrollment as co-op programs attract high-quality, well-motivated students
  • Career centers can take some of the credit for producing well-qualified graduates prepared to assume a productive role in the workplace
  • Career centers gain enhanced visibility and reputation through interactions with the community
  • Employers can provide career centers with valuable feedback about course curricula and content

Co-ops and internships are the perfect way to get your hands on new talent, economically vet candidates before hiring them, and offering students hands-on experience in their area of study. It’s a tri-fecta of benefits.


Catie Ewen

Catie Ewen joined the GradLeaders team to create strategic, industry-related marketing and sales materials. Primarily responsible for content and digital marketing efforts, Catie helps GradLeaders build and maintain its brand, while promoting its exclusive network, recruitment technology, and career management tools. Catie graduated from Miami University in 2014, with dual degrees in both Journalism and Mass Communications.

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