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Cooperative education program benefits students, employers

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 | Share

Since 1979, WSU’s Office of Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning has helped place more than 27,800 students in the workforce.

In turn, the relationships built and benefits gained are as valuable to employers as they are to students.

Kim Kuhfal
Kim Kufahl
“It’s a good way for a student to step in and learn and give a different perspective,” said Kim Kufahl, marketing manager for WSU’s cooperative education department.

Students provide a younger point of view and a sense of where the future is heading, said Kufahl.

In addition to a new perspective, employers benefit from experienced students in the workforce.

“Eventually, down the road, there’s somebody who is already trained who could step up and take a position in the company,” said Kufahl.

WSU’s cooperative education department, loosely known as co-op, has worked with 2,281 businesses since 1997. The variety of opportunities available allows students of all majors to gain work experience through internships and job placements.

“The main benefit is real-world business experience,” said Nathan Purdum, a senior co-op student at Wichita State who works as a market research assistant for Foulston Siefkin LLP.

“Having direct contact with an executive at our firm is something I wouldn’t have expected at my age before co-op."

Long-time employer partnerships

Companies can take advantage of the program’s benefits regardless of whether they hire students full-time after graduation, said Kufahl.

“It’s inexpensive talent that you get every year,” she said.
The value of co-op benefits has translated into long-lasting partnerships with community employers.

Some of the program’s first partnerships started 30 years ago and remain to this day.

Companies include Beech Aircraft Corp. (Hawker Beechcraft), First National Bank, KAKE TV 10, KWCH TV 12, NCR Corp. (LSI Logic), USD 259 and Wichita Children’s Home.

Andrew Ek, manager of college relations for Koch Industries Inc., said Wichita State’s cooperative education program is a mutually beneficial relationship.

Whether connecting with the community, hiring new students or building the future, employers continue to find value in the program.

“Koch companies value the co-op program,” said Ek. “It's not only an important part of our business strategy, but the program opens doors for students and provides an opportunity for students' future growth and success.”

As part of the program, applicants are prescreened and interviewed based on requested information from the employer.

To protect the student and the employer, companies list a position on co-op’s database and allow students to apply.

“Every position has to be approved by a coordinator,” said Kufahl. “We make sure it’s a legitimate learning experience.”

Businesses working with WSU’s co-op program foster relationships with both staff and students. Staff can meet with the employer and help them decide which students are best for them.

The co-op program also makes it easy for employers to interview an applicant.

“We’ll have an interview day where we can set up interviews for the employer and have them come interview the students here,” said Kufahl. “Kind of a one-stop shop deal.”

With easy interviews, a convenient application process and a commitment to students, co-op strives to provide employers and students the best overall experience; 30 years and counting.

Co-op is valuable for everyone, said Kufahl. “Employers get fresh talent, fresh ideas and get to learn the newest crazes.”

For more information on Wichita State University’s Office of Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning call (316) 978-3688 or visit http://www.wichita.edu/thisis/offices/coop/.

This story has been tagged Cooperative Education, Community, Experience-based learning. See all RSS feeds here
Created on Tuesday, September 13, 2011; Last modified on Tuesday, September 13, 2011