Students Gain Professional Experience
By Jill Gambon
Lynn Le is a sophomore but she’s already thinking about what she’ll do when she graduates with a degree in finance from the Manning School of Business.
To learn more about career options and gain hands-on experience, Le enrolled in UMass Lowell’s newly expanded co-op program
. She is among the first group of business students to sign up for the program, which provides a taste of professional experience through three- or six-month job placements as well as seminars on workplace behavior and job search skills.
“I wanted to get into the co-op program because I know it will put me ahead of the game,” says Le, who will start a six-month co-op job in January at MFS Investment Management in Boston. “Experience is worth so much. It will set me apart in the job market.”
During the fall semester, Le enrolled in the professional development seminar, a prerequisite for a co-op placement. The seminar covers everything from resume-building to managing social networking profiles and how to network at a career fair. The preparation paid off. She got an offer the day she interviewed with the financial services firm, which is led by UMass Lowell alum Robert J. Manning, for whom the Business School is named.
Growing Interest in Co-op Program
Launched in the Plastics Engineering Department two years ago, the co-op program has expanded to all engineering disciplines, the College of Sciences and the Manning School. Employers that have signed on to offer co-op placements for business school students include banks, financial services firms and technology companies.
“My goal is to come out of college with co-op experience,” says Jason Fogarty, a sophomore majoring in accounting who also enrolled in the professional development seminar. “I think it will give me an advantage.”
In the seminar, Fogarty has learned about business etiquette and workplace expectations, which helped prepare him for a co-op job at Moody, Famiglietti & Andronico, an accounting firm in Tewksbury. He will begin his job in January and work through tax season. “I hope to learn about auditing and to gain a better understanding of the accounting field,” he says.
Gaining a Competitive Advantage
“Students need to look at what kinds of experience they can gather to make them work and life ready and they need to start the process early,” advises Diane Hewitt, associate director of Cooperative Education
. “They need to think about how they are going to acquire experience to test the waters of their intended majors. These are the experiences that will differentiate them in a competitive job market.”
Interest in the co-op program has been growing. Two years after the first co-op prep class was piloted with plastics engineering majors, there are now 130 students enrolled in professional development seminars. This past summer, 43 engineering students were working in co-op jobs, up from 29 in 2010. Next summer, Hewitt expects at least 100 students will be placed in co-op positions.
For Le, an added benefit of the program is the mentoring she has gotten from Martina Witts, the assistant director of cooperative education for the Manning School, who is teaching the professional development seminar for business students. “I wanted to build a close connection with a faculty member,” says Le. “And I feel very connected.”