How Important Are Co-Ops and Internships After Graduation?

importance of co-op and internships

Co-op and internship, also known as experiential education, provide short-term workplace practical experience that helps graduates transition into the job market. Without some practical experience, graduates find it challenging to get going. In most workplaces, deliverables are expected within tight deadlines and under supervision. A graduate who has never worked in a professional space will struggle to get up to speed in such an environment. This makes it difficult for them to implement their knowledge. What’s more, due to poor interpersonal skills, they struggle to interact with colleagues. 

In fact, most hiring managers don’t hire graduates without some work experience. Recruiters are well aware of the importance of internships and co-op programs. According to a NACE survey, nearly 91 per cent of employers prefer that their candidates have work experience. While 65 per cent of the total group indicate that they prefer their candidates to have relevant work experience. Concerning how a graduate gained their experience, more than half of respondents prefer that it comes from an internship or co-op. 

What is the difference between co-op and internship in Canada?

Now that you’ve learned about the importance of internships and co-op programs, are you still confused about the difference?

Though co-op and internship are a bit similar, the processes are different.

For graduates, a co-op program is merged into your academic curriculum. In co-op, you combine hands-on practice in your area of study with academic instruction. This gives the student both practical experience in their field, and funds to continue their education.

The Muse defines an internship as short-term work experience offered by companies and other organizations for students and recent graduates to get some entry-level exposure to a particular industry or field. An internship can be paid or unpaid but the primary purpose is for you to gain more experience.

Importance of Internships and Co-op After Graduation

The importance of internships and co-op programs can hardly be overstated. Below are some reasons why they are important. 

Gain Valuable Experience

The first thing any recruiter wants to know is the experience of a potential employee. They want to be sure you have something to bring to the company if they employ you. Having internship experience gives you an edge in a job market that’s very competitive. 

Higher Starting Salaries 

With some internship experience and practical knowledge, employers are more open to paying you more. The NACE survey found that graduates with internships and/or co-op experience received 9-12% higher salary than those without similar experience. Recruiters see your internship experience as valuable and they believe that you’ll be able to adjust quickly. 

Test Drive Career Plan

Most graduates have a career plan, while some aren’t always sure of their career path. Whichever category you belong to, an internship gives you the opportunity to test drive. During your internship, you’d mostly do the things you’d be doing in your chosen career. You get to know if that’s something you want to do on a daily basis. If it’s not, you can intern in a different field to test the waters. 

Motivation and Work Habits

To be productive in a professional setting requires more than just knowing the technical side. Developing work habits and staying motivated helps you to be productive. Without these, you may find yourself failing to meet deadlines. Internship instils workplace characteristics in you. This ensures that you can adapt to any new workplace faster than someone without any internship experience. 

Chance to Make Some Money and Grow Your Network 

Not all internships are paid, but those that do pay decent salaries. Consider looking out for internship opportunities that pay if you need the money. But even if you don’t make money, you still get to expand your network, which will come in handy when you need a letter of recommendation. A professional network is important. You never know when you might need something. 

Connect With Employers 

Interning is an excellent opportunity to connect with employers. When you intern with a particular organisation, they are more likely to hire you. They know your ability and you already know the company workflow and culture. Hence, you won’t need a long adaptation time. According to a 2019 survey, around 70 % of interns and 50% of co-op participants receive a job offer from their co-op employer. Upon accepting a full-time role, some interns even receive signing bonuses. 

Opportunity to Travel 

It’s always great to get out of your comfort zone and go somewhere else. It’s an opportunity to see more of the world and mix with people from different places. Those who choose to intern in a different state or country get to enjoy these benefits. Some employers even offer to pay a travel stipend. 

Ultimately, everyone’s circumstances are different, and there will always be obstacles. Unless those obstacles are insurmountable, don’t let them stop you from doing an internship. It’s the surest way to get employers to offer you jobs full-time. 

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