Factors that Influence Student Participation in Co-OpsA cooperative education program (co-op) in engineering is a partnership between an academicinstitution and an employer designed to engage students in practical engineering experiencethrough rotations of full-time employment and course study. Co-op employment providesstudents with discipline-relevant professional experience, financial support, and early entry intothe engineering labor force while serving as a recruitment tool for co-op companies. Using asequential mixed-methods approach, this research aims to identify factors that influence studentaccess to and participation in cooperative education programs.The quantitative analysis of co-op participation uses comprehensive, longitudinal academicstudent records from six partner institutions that comprise the Multiple-Institution Database forInvestigating Engineering Longitudinal Development (MIDFIELD). MIDFIELD includes 23years of student demographic and transcript data from 1987 through 2009. The qualitativeexamination focuses on individual student interviews from a research-intensive MIDFIELDinstitution. Across MIDFIELD institutions and years, an average of 23% of engineering studentsin the population participated in a co-op experience; however, the fraction of studentsparticipating in co-ops differed by engineering discipline and matriculation year.The logistic regression analysis shows that there is no difference in co-op participation bygender, except in Aerospace engineering where women are 20% more likely than men toparticipate. Meanwhile, Asian, black, and international students are less likely to engage in co-ops than their counterparts. Preliminary findings from the individual student interviews exploringwhy students decided not to pursue co-ops despite an initial interest fall into four broad themes:1) interest in other extracurricular activities and internship options, 2) concerns regarding thelengthy time commitment, 3) uncertainty or not well-developed plans regarding major andemployment goals, and 4) minimum eligibility requirements not met. Research findings have thepotential to be applied toward the development of strategies to further enhance co-op recruitmentand engagement of engineering students from a broader range of backgrounds, interests, andexperiences as a pathway to potentially increase the overall diversity of the professionalengineering labor force.
Engineering Education, Co-op education, Student participation
Date of this Version
Main, J. B., & Ohland, M. W., & Ramirez, N., & Fletcher, T. L., & Davis, J. (2015, June), Factors Associated with Student Participation in Cooperative Education Programs (Co-Ops) Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24094