Students On The Job: How to make the experience a positive one
Before the beginning of the work term, it's important to do some planning about the tasks that the student will accomplish and how she or he will fit into your organizational culture and climate.
You can expect students to be eager to become involved as quickly as possible in work that is educational, career related and challenging. Time spent clarifying their role, explaining behavioural norms, and welcoming them as members of a team is rewarded in terms of performance and loyalty. Employers who take the time to prepare the arrival of their students will be rewarded with productive and effective professionals.
Few weeks before placement
- Contact student to set up a meeting.
- Advise student with regards to all issues of confidentiality in the workplace, review all health and safety issues and have non-disclosure agreements signed.
- Have student complete all necessary payroll information.
- Have work station ready and all stationary and office supplies; provide a detailed job description and a handbook of important information and resources to review.
- Provide a list of contacts, phone directory and organizational chart to assist students in knowing who they can or should not approach for help in their tasks.
- Prepare student's co-workers of his/her arrival and inform reception of student's start date.
Within first week
- Provide proper orientation, overview of organization, training and clearly assigned tasks.
- Explain reporting responsibilities within the group.
- Clearly indicate expectations regarding dress code, work schedule, overtime, breaks and lunches, Internet/computer usage and any other details appropriate to company policy.
- Set clear expectations regarding performance, responsibilities and priorities. You may ask student to e-mail or submit a weekly report, detailing projects and status of assignments.
- Make the student feel welcome in the group, and assure him/her that you and your entire staff will try to make this experience as productive and mutually beneficial as possible. Encourage the student to discuss with you any questions, problems, or concerns that he or she may encounter.
- Discuss the work that you plan to have the student carry out, as well as with the person who will assign and review the work and supervise the student, if someone other than yourself.
- If the person is new to your area, you may consider offering information and advice on housing, public transportation, special events, and cultural and social opportunities.
- Within the first three weeks of placement, students are asked to meet with you to discuss work-term objectives. Your role is to assist students to set realistic work-term objectives and provide relevant learning/training opportunities. You may be required to evaluate the work-term report if it is considered confidential.
- Set a series of short meetings with the student throughout the work term to review performance and progress on the learning and performance objectives. Make sure that there is a clear understanding of how work will be evaluated, when it will be evaluated, and by whom.
- Assign a mentor or partner to counsel the student on a day-to-day basis. Ideally, the mentor should be someone of similar age and background who has the respect of the group, someone that can identify with the student's concerns and help them gain professional and personal acceptance within the group.
Throughout the placement
- Assign students more responsibilities.
- Monitor progress by meeting with student on a regular basis to discuss general performance, adherence to organization policies and procedures, with guidance toward improvement as appropriate.
- Evaluate progress toward meeting the learning and performance objectives established in the beginning of work term.
- Revise and update work assignments, work-term objectives and performance objectives, as needed.
- If the initial work assignment is nearing completion, discuss possible follow-on assignments, as needed.
- Include students in as many meetings as possible so that they may better understand what your organization does and how it operates, thus assuming responsibilities and becoming productive sooner.
- Allow students to job shadow if they express interest in another area of the department/organization.
- Guide student by providing direction and feedback. Contact the University of Ottawa CO-OP Office for assistance in supervising and helping student develop skills and professional attitude.
- Participate in the Employer Account Manager's site visit. Employers and students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the site-visit form and complete document before meeting the EAM. This will allow everyone to be better prepared for this meeting and benefit more from the time spent.
In the last two weeks
- A final wrap-up meeting should be held with the student a few days before the end of the work term to review entire placement.
- Review and evaluate the learning objectives set at the beginning of the work term and discuss your perception of which objectives were completed, as well as those objectives not completed and why.
- Review and evaluate the student's level of achievement on performance and learning objectives and provide constructive criticism so that the student may explore ways of improving shortcomings.
- Complete student evaluation form, discuss evaluation with student and submit to CO-OP Office before the final day of work term (or other date).
- Inform student and Employer Account Manager of your intention of re-hiring student for the next work term. For this additional placement, it's expected that the employer provide enhanced tasks and responsibilities. Discuss possible future work assignments and a tentative set of learning objectives for the next work term.
The University of Ottawa's Co-operative Education Programs help students develop skills and abilities to excel in their field of choice. Setting work-term objectives is a practical exercise that makes this achievement possible.
Work-term objectives describe the specific goals the student wants to reach during his/her CO-OP placement. The objectives combine elements from the job description, the supervisor's expectations, and the student's own learning goals to create specific performance targets. Work-term objectives, designed in collaboration with the supervisor, help ensure a successful outcome for everyone involved.
Good work-term objectives are only one factor in a successful work term. We have compiled a list of other factors that will help ensure a successful work term.
Ensure a successful work term
Working closely with the student is key for her/him to being successful in the CO-OP education learning experience. By meeting with your student early in the work term and regularly throughout the placement period, the student will be better able to:
- Clearly articulate specific job requirements and performance expectations.
- Apply academic learning in the work environment.
- Focus efforts and be productive from the start.
- Work efficiently and see the results of his/her efforts.
- Recognize and benefit from available performance opportunities.
- Work with greater motivation and energy.
- Increase involvement in the job as the term progresses.
- Improve performance from one term to the next.
In short, work-term objectives help the student give his/her very best - and have the best possible placement experience.
Objectives that work
Work-term objectives are effective if they are meaningful, flexible, and S.M.A.R.T.. Here are a number of tips, tools, and techniques to help you in this process.
Achieving success in developing, setting, and meeting work-term objectives depends on the collaboration between the work supervisor, the student, and the CO-OP education program team. Each of these people has specific responsibilities within that process.
The CO-OP team's responsibilities:
- Train students to set clear and detailed work-term objectives.
- Answer student's questions and those of the employer.
- Do follow-up with the student and the employer after the site visit.
- Attend the CO-OP program workshop on setting work-term objectives.
- Set preliminary work-term objectives.
- Book a meeting with work supervisor to (1) articulate learning goals, and (2) be sure he/she understands the employer's performance expectations.
- Design and set work objectives. Sign a copy of the work objectives form.
- Continually review, fine tune, and improve work performance.
- Meet regularly with supervisor to analyze performance and get advice. Review progress with the Employer Account Manager after the site visit.
- Reflect on work-term experience: What has been learned? How could the experience be applied?
- Meet with student early in the placement period to discuss expectations and what student hopes to learn from the job.
- Work with student to design and set work objectives. Sign a copy of the work objectives form.
- Train and support the student to ensure success.
- Meet with student frequently to analyze performance and offer advice.
- Review student's progress with the Employer Account Manager after the site visit.
- Do a final evaluation of student's work, measured against his/her work objectives.