Co-op: Reality Learning

Published on: October 10, 2007

Cooperative education or co-op for short, is also known as professional practice, which is "Reality Learning" at its best. According to a recent survey, the three top reasons why high school seniors go to college are "to get a better job someday," "gain knowledge" and "meet new people." A cooperative education gives students an advantage in achieving each of those goals.

The co-op program allows students to regularly alternate time spent in the classroom with time spent in the paid workforce. Students work in a field related to their academic and career goals. They have progressive learning experiences that integrate theory and practice. Co-op serves as a partnership among Lone Star College-Kingwood, its students, and their employers.

"When I visit the students and employers at the end of the semester, I see how much the students have accomplished. They have been transformed and have gained self-confidence in their skills on the job and improved their interpersonal and business skills, as well as developed a remarkable sense of achievement" said Debbie Hughes, who has taught co-op for the Business/Technical/Social Sciences Department for several semesters and acts as the business liaison.

Co-op programs are committed to integrating real-world work experience into the academic curriculum. "I am gaining real-world experience and getting a first-hand look at my future career. I am producing designs that are published and adding them to my portfolio of work" said Amy Callahan, a graphic design major who works at Designs in Print, the graphic art studio for publications at Lone Star College-Kingwood.

Graduates from Lone Star College-Kingwood say that co-op was an invaluable part of their education. Also important to them are the priceless intangibles of self discovery, maturity, growth, responsibility, excitement, transformation, and most of all, connection. 

Employers appreciate working with the co-op program, because the relationship gives them the opportunity not only to employ bright and eager students but also to evaluate candidates for future permanent placement.  Employers like co-op students because often they complete special projects that otherwise might go left undone. These special projects might involve organizing a medical supply area, arranging and classifying inventory in a warehouse, or updating a manual of policies and procedures.

"My company has benefited from the co-op program because the extra tasks that Amreen has taken on have increased the overall productivity of the company" said Shaun Thomas, supervisor of Amreen Noormohammad, a business management major employed by Walgreen's. Thomas also likes that she has developed contacts with Lone Star College-Kingwood for future reference.

Co-op students know that the world is much larger than their apartments or classrooms. Those who work with local organizations get a feel for the community beyond their campus. Students who participate in a co-op program also have the opportunity to begin their network of professional contacts.

Students find that they must master time-management skills at work, in class, and in their personal lives. But for most the trade-off is worth it, because of the many benefits associated with co-op. "The co-op program has given me a better vision of the needs of my department and the confidence to help me meet those needs" said Reyna Tippetts, a legal office major who works for the Police Department at Lone Star College–Montgomery.

Classroom teaching takes on an extra dimension when supported by practical application. Students who use their learning to solve real-world problems find they not only gain a stronger understanding of material they have studied, but they are also better prepared to absorb new information when they return to classes. Realizing that success is measured by more than just grades, they become more serious about every aspect of school, including interaction with professors and classmates.

"Lone Star College-Kingwood and our students are very lucky to have the support of local businesses for our Co-op classes. The experience that students receive from participating in a true work environment is important to their future success in their careers.  When students combine classroom knowledge with hands-on experience in the workplace they become more valuable employees" said Linda Holcomb, Chair of the Business Department.

Cooperative education can enhance any student's education, whether they study logistics, graphic design, medical office or one of the other ten disciplines, whether they have a firm career goal in mind or are exploring their options, whether they want to enter the workforce right after graduation or transfer to a university. "Reality Learning" enhances the college experience immeasurably, and Lone Star College-Kingwood remains committed to promoting the co-op program.

For more information on the co-op program, visit kingwood.lonestar.edu and choose Co-op Work Experience from the Quicklinks menu or contact Linda Holcomb at 281-312-1697.

The Lone Star College System is among the largest and fastest growing community college districts in Texas. It comprises Lone Star College-North Harris, Lone Star College-Kingwood, Lone Star College–Tomball, Lone Star College–Montgomery, Lone Star College–CyFair, six satellite centers and The University Center. For more information about Lone Star College System and its programs, visit www.lonestar.edu or call 832-813-6500.