Students turn to co-op for competitive edge

Lisa Cornwell:

Ren Brown is banking on the work experience she gains while at college to give her a competitive edge over other young job seekers — an advantage increasingly sought by students and employers amid a weak economy and a changing workplace.
Schools and education groups are seeing growth in established programs that link students with employers, who also are showing increased interest. Many point to student concerns over job competition in a tight labor market and employer needs to replace retiring baby boomers.
“Historically, interest in cooperative education increases when the economy slumps, especially since it does seem to give people a leg up in the job market,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education.
Employers are looking to cooperative education as a way to observe potential employees over several months to better determine if they fit the company, said Phil Gardner, director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University.