Cooperative Collaborations: Company, University, Student

Company, university and student -“ what if there was a way they could all win in the game of business? What if a common denominator allowed companies to reduce cost and add creativity, while simultaneously helping universities move students into great careers where these students could thrive? Welcome to the world of Cooperative Collaborations.

Cooperative Collaborations are mutually beneficial partnerships between business and universities. Under each of the five examples below, you will see how everyone -“ company, university and student -“ comes out a winner.

Internships or Co-ops
How the company wins: An internship or co-op is a great way to reduce the cost of entry level functions. It also becomes an extended interview for potential full time employment allowing more in-depth knowledge of the potential employee than the traditional two or three interviews given.

How the university wins: Internships are a great extension of the education system. When students are placed in internships that enhance curriculum, the experience receive allows them to move from the theory of the text book to “real world” experience. Their experiences also bring value in classroom discussions.

How the students win: Internships help students determine if the career they envision matches the reality of the job. They also allow students to narrow down the type of company they would want to work for full time.

Practice Interviews
Some career service groups hold practice interviews on campus for their students.

How the company wins: Practice interviews are a great way to increase company branding by getting your name and culture in front of students. The company can also observe the student in a more relaxed setting and get a look at “new talent” before the rest of the business community does.

How the university wins: Practice interviews allow business community feedback on the interviewing and resume writing skills taught by the university. Methods can then be honed to better serve students.

How the students win: The value of practice interviews is two-fold. First, they allow students to sharpen their interviewing skills in a low pressure setting. Second, they allow the possibility of turning practice interviews into real interviews; sometimes helping students land internships before their peers.

Internship Workshops
Workshops are offered by some career services groups to help students prepare for resume writing, interviewing and career fair interaction with companies. Some groups invite recruiters from local businesses to be part of a Q&A panel.

How the company wins: Workshops are another great opportunity for company branding, allowing recruiters a few minutes to discuss their internship programs and company culture. At the end of the workshop, interested students can approach recruiters to hear about current opportunities.

How the university wins: As with practice interviews, workshops allow business community feedback on the guidance universities have given students. The corporate recruiter’s input to students enhances and backs up what the students have been hearing from the university.

How the students win: Workshops allow students to interact with the type of people who will soon be interviewing them. They can get suggestions, ask questions and see the differing approaches of various recruiters. They also offer students the opportunity for one-on-one conversations following the workshop.

Company Open House
Some companies have found value in holding open houses for local students. These are usually held after normal working hours to allow better interaction between company employees and students.

How the company wins: An open house is a focused, unique “show-and-tell” for a business. Combine discussion, Q&A and tours of the company with pizza, soda and cookies and everyone is sure to have a positive experience. Allowing employees the opportunity to talk about their contributions to the company with the students is a great morale builder.

How the university wins: Open houses allow two types of partnership. First, career services can partner with the company in campus advertising, giving tangible evidence of their value to students. Second, individual professors can partner with a company to hold a smaller, more directly focused open house. One example is allowing a finance class or engineering class to see business up close.

How students win: Open houses let students see a business culture and discuss job responsibilities in a low pressure environment. If interested, they can turn the experience into an interview.

Class Projects: Large Group, Small Group or Individual
Projects can range from a few weeks to a whole semester. They can have only a few students or the entire class. Size and longevity of the projects are determined by the scope.

How the company wins: Class projects are a great way for a business to accomplish tasks that their employees are too busy to complete. They can be marketing surveys, financial studies, alternative energy studies or major projects like creating a new device for the production floor. The list of possibilities is endless, the cost can’t be beat and it’s also another great way to find future talent.

How the university wins: Class projects give the “real world”, hands-on experience that will truly enhance text book learning. Professors can work closely with a company of choice to bring their subject to life.

How students win: Class projects give students valuable hands-on experience. Interacting with the company gives them insight into their field and helps them continue focusing in on their career choice. They also have a chance to impress a potential future employer.

Cooperative collaborations are a great value to all involved. They will improve the corporate bottom line, enhance education and help students to experience the world they will soon be working in. Everyone comes out a winner.

Tom Stanfield is the people development director at Mill Steel, a family owned steel service center headquartered in Grand Rapids and with operations in Melvindale, Mich. Mill Steel was selected for the highest elite award, Best of the Best, for both 101 Best & Brightest Companies to Work For in West Michigan and Metropolitan Detroit. He may be contacted at [email protected].