player will open in new window
Welcome to this introduction the Monterey Peninsula College Cooperative Work Experience Program, or COOP. In a nutshell, COOP is a great way to learn workplace skills while earning college credit…and often cash as well!
In other words, COOP combines work experience and college instruction. Employers work together with educators to help you succeed.
In every case, there are basically three members of the COOP team: you, your employer, and a COOP faculty advisor.
So what’s the big deal? Why is work-based learning so important? Work-based learning bridges the gap between theoretical and practical knowledge. In college courses, you go to class and listen to lectures, but you don’t always get a practical understanding about how this information will benefit you in a workplace.
In real work setting, however, it can be easy to get so caught up in day-to-day activities that you miss out on opportunities for learning, problem solving, and making improvements. By bringing together these two worlds—work experience and college instruction–COOP helps you establish an educational framework and GOALS for your job, giving you the chance to learn new skills you might not otherwise have had the chance to develop.
Often, this approach can mean the difference between a dead-end job and the kind of rewarding career that actually makes you psyched to get out of bed in the morning…
To participate in the COOP program, you need three basic things: a job, a boss who’s willing to work with you within the context of COOP, and a formal agreement that spells out your learning goals. We’ll come back to these in a moment.
First, let’s talk about which COOP class is right for you and how many credits you can earn.
There are two basic COOP classes. Occupational COOP 91 is for students who have chosen a career goal AND whose job directly relates to that goal.
If you haven’t yet declared a major or selected a career path, or even if you have, but your job has nothing to do with that path, then General COOP 92 is the class for you.
At MPC, you can take:
between 1 and 4 units of Occupational COOP 91 per term, or -
between 1 or 3 units of General COOP 92 per term. The units you earn are based on the minimum number of hours you expect to work throughout the term. 1 unit may be earned for every 75 hours of paid work or for every 60 hours of unpaid work.
Another piece of good news is that participating in COOP can earn you some pretty serious college credit. State law allows you to complete a total of 16 units of COOP at the community college level. And yes, COOP units transfer to CSUs.
Keep in mind that your employment situation can change or remain the same from term to term. In the latter case, just keep in mind that your employer has to offer new opportunities for skill and professional development with each new term.
As mentioned earlier, the first thing you need to be eligible for COOP is a job. The COOP office does not provide actual employment. However, if you are currently unemployed, MPC’s COOP faculty advisor may be able to direct you to an internship. Keep in mind that employers regularly recruit new talent from those they initially employ as interns. It’s a great way to learn more about a career, get your foot in the door, and possibly become gainfully employed! Please view our video, “Is an Internship Right for Me?” if you think you might be interested.
At any rate, your COOP employment can include both paid and unpaid work. The only requirements are that the job needs to include supervision and a focus on learning. Self-employment doesn’t qualify.
The second condition for COOP is a willing employer. The employer assumes t
he responsibility of helping you develop ambitious but doable learning objectives, supporting and guiding your efforts as the semester progresses, and evaluating your accomplishments at the end of the term. But the employer often becomes so much more than a simple on-the-job advisor. Students frequently describe how their relationships with their bosses were improved through COOP. Supervisors often thrive on coaching and sharing their knowledge and they start seeing COOP students as real star employees.
The third condition for COOP is a formal agreement between you, your COOP employer, and the COOP faculty advisor.
The most important part of the agreement is determining the learning objectives for the term. To create effective learning objectives, you will need to think about what you want to accomplish. These are your goals. You will then need to develop a corresponding set of specific objectives that will help you grow both personally and professionally, demonstrate mastery, build your resume, and improve your chances for future success.
Whether you are a new intern or a seasoned employee, in Occupational or General COOP, a big part of COOP lies in acquiring skills needed in EVERY workplace, including…
- Customer service
- Time Management
- Job Knowledge
- Interpersonal Skills
- Analytical skills
The skills you develop in COOP will benefit you no matter what career path you ultimately take.
It’s smart to talk with your supervisor as well as co-workers, professional networks, and other students before refining your goals. Students who clearly define both their objectives and specific action plans benefit the most from their COOP experiences.
Let’s talk a little about the role of your COOP Faculty Advisor. The advisor helps you translate what you want to accomplish into workable objectives, visits your work site and consults with your employer, receives and provides feedback on your assignments, verifies the hours worked and, based partially on your employer’s end-of-term assessment, assigns you a grade. In other words, your advisor provides support and guidance throughout your COOP experience.
So how can you get started? For those who already have viable employment, it couldn’t be easier. Just click here to fill out and submit the Online COOP Employer Information form. After reviewing this information, the COOP faculty advisor will be in touch with the appropriate section number as well as an add code that will let you register for the course. Simply click the button, and you’re on your way.
Again, for those interested in securing an internship, see our Internship video or contact Kathleen Clark, the MPC COOP Program Coordinator.
Finally, keep in mind that a COOP section can be scheduled around your needs and employment opportunities, even in the middle of a term, so please don’t wait to get started if you think COOP might be for you!