Are you prepared to take on a co-op student? Have you considered the student's needs? Let's find out…
By Katlynd Poulton
Are you thinking about taking on a co-op student for temporary employment? If so, there are a few things you must consider before you start hiring. Much like employers, co-op students have expectations they hope will be met too; ensuring you can fulfill these expectations are critical for both parties involved. This blog will discuss some of the things you should consider and what your co-op student may be expecting from you as an employer. Keep in mind, co-op students are still in the process of completing their post-secondary education and may not be 100% confident at all times, so as much as you are their employer, you also act as their mentor. Realizing you are taking on both roles is critical; this will help ensure the co-op student feels comfortable, supported and eager to please.
Just because your co-op student has applied to a position within your company that reflects the post-secondary program they are in does not mean they are completely ready to be tossed into the workplace and left to have at it. Some students have never worked in their field of study before and will need a detailed orientation and sufficient training for their new job role. Even students that do have experience should still receive training to make certain they are ready for any tasks you may assign them.
Adequate Work Space
Does your work environment allow for another employee? Do you have enough space and equipment to accommodate your co-op student? No matter what job role a co-op student fulfills, it is important they have the necessary tools and work space required to complete their tasks with efficiency. Don't leave your co-op student with a storage closet to work out of, make sure they are treated equally and are set up for success the same way your existing employees would be!
R-E-L-E-V-A-N-T experience, not kind of, not sort of, but really RELEVANT experience! In post-secondary programs, work term durations vary by program and most students consider these limited time frames to be very critical learning experiences, so it is very important that their role is tailored to their field of study. It is important for the student to be receiving meaningful, relevant experience and it is important to the employer because it will help ensure tasks are done effectively.
Are you fit to be a mentor? If you aren't sure, check out last week's post “Are You a Valuable Mentor?" and find out some key traits that mentors must possess. Mentors are very important and they can help us reach our goals and feel more confident while doing so because we know they support us and our decisions. Your co-op student will most likely look to you as their supervisor, or to another co-worker to be their mentor while employed with your company. Embrace this! Not enough people ask to be mentored and not enough people are mentors, yet we all have something we can teach others and are all capable of supporting others with encouragement and constructive feedback. If given the opportunity to act as a mentor, make the most of it and welcome the relationship!
Even if you aren't typically the type of person to give a lot of feedback, set aside time to check-in and advise your co-op student throughout the work term. This will help the student feel more confident and allow them time to ask you questions 1-on-1 and confirm they are meeting your expectations, if not surpassing them. Constructive criticism is OK too, make sure the student understands you are only trying to help them expand and improve their skills. If you are pleased with your co-op student's achievements and work ethic, offer to provide a reference for them in the future and write a strong endorsement on their LinkedIn account so that others see your positive feedback!