In a survey earlier this year, 64 percent of the respondent graduates of BGSU’s College of Technology said their cooperative education experience at Bowling Green helped them find their current, or a previous, job.
And more than 90 percent of the technology alumni credited the co-op program with improving their problem-solving and interpersonal skills and aiding development of professional work habits.
But graduates aren’t the only ones affirming the value of the program these days. It has also received the seal of approval of the Accreditation Council for Cooperative Education (ACCE), “the only national accrediting body for cooperative education in the country,” according to Thomas Siebenaler, assistant director of the BGSU program.
The council granted full accreditation, through December 2007, following a process that included submission of a self-study by the program last spring and a site visit by a three-member ACCE team in July.
In its report, the accreditation team praised the “conscientious and thorough” co-op staff, “significant” faculty involvement and “strong support” for the program throughout the College of Technology.
Program Director Barry Piersol said the staff had thought BGSU offered a good match with the council’s criteria for accreditation, which he called “a nice little feather in your cap.”
The co-op program is mandatory, and credit bearing, for all technology majors, who must have three full-time, semester-long experiences as part of their degree requirements. “It’s fully integrated with the coursework,” Piersol noted, and the experiences are alternated with semesters in classes. That way, students can share, and apply, what they’ve learned with peers and professors.
“It makes learning and retaining the information so much easier,” said Siebenaler, adding that the last semester before graduation is spent on campus.
“The unique imprint of College of Technology majors is they graduate with the equivalent of a year of industrial experience,” Piersol pointed out.
More than 13,000 alumni have done so since the program’s inception in 1968, when “we were the founding co-op program on campus,” he said. This year, the number of students placed in positions worldwide reached 734, and their combined wages exceeded $3.7 million.
Last summer alone, technology co-op students worked in 27 states and five countries. “We encourage them to broaden their horizons,” Siebenaler said. “They’re thinking outside the box.”
Because they have already looked for three full-time jobs while in college, the students will know what one is like when they enter the workforce, he said. And through their co-op experiences, they can build a network of contacts as well.
Piersol described the program as an integral part of the College of Technology, whose academic program is also accredited, by the National Association of Industrial Technology.
Gathering information for the ACCE accreditation process was “a bonding experience” for faculty and staff in the college, and the positive result serves “to convince others that we have been reviewed by an outside group,” he said. “Someone else is looking at it (the program) and agrees with it.”
“It’s validation,” added Siebenaler, that the college is on the industry forefront.