by Katherine Atkinson, September 11, 2019. This article originally appeared in the KEEN 2019 Annual Report. Reprinted with permission.
When I came to the Opus College of Engineering in 2017, I inherited a 100-year-old co-op program that connected students with over 250 industry partners each year. Yet the trends were troubling. Students would do one or two terms with an industry partner but then ask for other placements. Industry partners wanted to “try out” a student with the goal of offering them a full-time opportunity, but sometimes the fit just wasn’t right.
How could we make sure our program served stakeholders more effectively and was relevant in the 21st century?
The entrepreneurial mindset (EM) held the answer. If we could make sure that students were adding concrete value and that employers understood the breadth and depth of that value, there would be better student-employer matches leading to long-term success.
We set about ensuring this success in multiple stages. The first key aspect was to make sure students understood the 3C’s we were building into our curriculum. Then we introduced EM to our Industry Advisory board, which is comprised of 15 employers. While initially wary of the word “entrepreneurial,” they were soon clamoring for students who could provide that value!
Additionally, we hold independent conversations with students and employers to assess readiness. Students and their supervisors or mentors attend an EM workshop the semester before the co-op begins. And we provide students with a Key Indicator Model to ask questions during the interview process to find out on their own if the company is a viable match.
We also added two more Cs.
For Marquette, it’s not about the skillset and it’s not even about EM. It’s about ethics. While our graduates are adding value, they must also think about the ethical implications and consequences of their decisions and actions.
We’re happy to report that employers are adopting the 5C model. This gives them an even stronger framework of support and allows for risk-taking and curiosity to take place within co-op experiences. One of our stand-out industry collaborators even requires students to do an end-of-term presentation to show how they think and approach work, and how they’ve absorbed and displayed EM.
We’re looking forward to seeing how adoption leads to greater effectiveness over the next couple years.
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