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New co-op system removes application constraints

Students+search+for+both+co-op+and+postgraduate+opportunities+at+the+2019+NU+career+fair.
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New co-op system removes application constraints

Students search for both co-op and postgraduate opportunities at the 2019 NU career fair.

Students search for both co-op and postgraduate opportunities at the 2019 NU career fair.

File photo by Bradley Fargo

Students search for both co-op and postgraduate opportunities at the 2019 NU career fair.

File photo by Bradley Fargo

File photo by Bradley Fargo

Students search for both co-op and postgraduate opportunities at the 2019 NU career fair.

Maria Lovato, campus editor

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Co-op employers are receiving more applications than ever before and students are submitting applications to jobs that were previously restricted to specific colleges. Katherine Ziemer, the acting senior vice provost for undergraduate education and experiential learning, said this is due to a recent change in the way the co-op system operates.

“One of the things that we have recently instigated as of this school year was that all jobs are open to all students, and the timelines are determined by students and by employers,” Ziemer said. “The only restriction is for students going out on co-op the first time; they need to have their resume approved by their co-op instructor.”

Ziemer said the new system started in the fall 2018 semester and that the co-op department saw the need to make the change in the demand they received from companies for students in fields outside of their typical specialty.

“Our employers are looking for students no longer in a particular college necessarily,” she said. “You have to remember, we’ve been doing co-ops for 100 years, so our systems were initially put into place because [General Electric] wanted engineers. Today, a GE wants engineers, business people, and graphic arts people and computer science people.”

For Sofia Horan, who is starting her third co-op in July, the new system did not make much of a difference during her search.

“It didn’t impact me much because the co-op I wanted for my last co-op was in my major,” said Horan, a fourth-year cell and molecular biology major.

However, second-year Miles Haggin said he likes how the new system widened the opportunities available to students. He said job listings previously restricted to one college could also be applicable to other majors.

“I think sometimes the person who put the job posting up didn’t consider, they maybe just put the wrong college, or didn’t consider that there could be multiple [colleges],” said Haggin, a business administration major.

Ziemer said the shift is centered on three main points: All jobs are open to all eligible students, there is always support for students and there is always flexibility for students, meaning they can start applying and interviewing whenever they are ready.

“Student support is always there,” Ziemer said. “So the co-op coordinators are still, according to surveys and will always be in my personal opinion, the number one resource for students as they’re going through the co-op selection process. They’re an awesome group of people, and they’re very dedicated to students.”

Naomi Bass, an assistant director in the Co-op and Career Development Office in the NU School of Law, said that at least for the law school, this advising goes beyond just co-ops.

“Because we do have this dual role of both co-op and career services, I think that is what makes me love my job,” Bass said. “I think it’s so interesting to be able to see students over the course of their law school career and then help them with their strategy for post-grad.”

Ilya Yudkovich, a fifth-year computer science and math combined major, said he has no complaints about the support he’s received from his co-op advisor.

“They’ve been pretty helpful for me,” he said. “I’ve had the same one for all three co-ops. She’s been great.”

Ziemer said the surveys she mentioned also indicate that students want more training in negotiating skills, so the co-op programs are working to put together workshops on this topic. Ultimately, however, Ziemer said co-op pay is up to the employer.

“We consider it a professional relationship between the student and the employer,” she said. “We feel that part of that learning process is for the students to be professionals and be treated as professionals.”

Chantel Riendeau, a third-year business administration major, said she thinks salary negotiation training would be helpful to recently graduated students at their first job.

“I can’t picture a co-op position ever negotiating with a student, just because there’s so many people that would be willing to fill it that you don’t really have much say,” Riendeau said. “But I think once you’re outside of undergrad there is room for negotiation, and it would be beneficial for students.”

Many co-op job postings don’t get filled. For the spring 2019 co-op cycle, 58 percent of the Massachusetts co-ops available were filled, 40 percent of the out-of-state domestic co-ops were filled and only 29 percent of the global co-op postings were filled.

This new system also increased the number of applications that companies received this year. Ziemer said surveys conducted with employers found 92 percent of employers were very happy with the level of applications and of the remaining 8 percent, none had issues with the quality of the students applying.

Although students are applying to more co-ops and looking at more diverse opportunities, many still tend to apply within their field of study.

“It was interesting to see what other opportunities were out there,” Riendeau said. “I didn’t apply to any co-ops outside of my college, but I thought it was nice to see what other jobs are available.”

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