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Employer Handbook


Founded in 1871, Shepherd University is a selective undergraduate institution. Its mission is to provide all students with a firm grounding in the liberal arts and to offer a broad spectrum of degree programs. The primary focus of the University is to provide a learning environment where professors, current and productive in their fields, maintain a high standard of teaching. The College is committed to being a cultural and intellectual center of the region and to expanding its connection with the varied resources of the Mid-Atlantic region, especially with the nearby Washington-Baltimore area. The College is also committed to the recruitment and retention of culturally diverse students, faculty, and staff. In recognition of its ties in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, the College continues to assist local businesses and community organizations in planning for regional growth. Shepherd University will vigorously pursue an enhanced role as the vital institution of higher education in the region.


Welcome to the growing network of employers who have recognized the economic and educational value of hiring co-op students. The purpose of this handbook is to share the philosophy and mechanics of cooperative education and to help you successfully implement a co-op program within your organization.

Shepherd University cooperative education is a cross-discipline program which can be applied to the entire spectrum of employment opportunities that the working world can offer. Assignments can be developed locally and nationally, with small and large businesses, non-profit and government agencies. Please contact our office if you would like assistance in developing co-op assignments within your organization.


Cooperative education is a unique form of experiential learning which combines traditional classroom instruction with planned periods of supervised employment in fields related to majors and career goals. It allows students to apply abstract theories and skills learned in the classroom to real employment situations and prepares them to meet the challenges of the work world. We believe that all participants will realize a number of benefits and that a cooperative effort between educators and employers is the key to creating a prepared workforce to lead us into the next century.


There are two types of co-op schedules. Parallel co-op students work in part-time positions while also attending classes on a part-time basis. Alternating co-op students alternate semesters of full-time work experience with semesters of full-time course work. Through these two options, co-op students may provide coverage for a variety of needs:

  • Ongoing, full-time positions can be filled with several students on either a parallel or alternating basis.

  • Ongoing, part-time positions can be filled with students on parallel co-op schedules.

  • Short-term or temporary needs can be covered on a semester-by-semester basis, with parallel co-ops filling part-time temporary positions and alternating co-ops providing full-time temporary coverage.


    Employer Benefits

    An estimated 75,000 to 85,000 employers nationwide hire co-op students. The federal government is the largest employer, hiring 16,000 students throughout 36 departments and agencies. Frequently cited reasons are:

    Cooperative education provides a cost-effective way to meet both immediate and long-term staffing needs.

    Participating in co-op partnerships provides an opportunity to evaluate potential career employees before making long-term commitments.

    Cooperative education can help to decrease turnover in career positions.

    Co-op partnerships allow employers to impact the education process.

    Student Benefits

    More and more students are choosing co-ops instead of, or in addition to, the more common internship programs. Some reasons cited are:

    By allowing students to gain productive, paid work experience, co-ops more effectively bridge the gap between school and the world of professional work.

    Co-op students earn $7500 per year on a national average; this can contribute significantly to college costs.

    Co-op students gain early entry into the "real world," as tax-paying individuals who contribute to their community and to society as a whole.

    College Benefits

    Through cooperative education, Shepherd University has built a strong and positive relationship with the business community, thereby realizing a number of benefits:

    Using the workplace as an extended classroom/laboratory has allowed our students' access to the newest and most sophisticated equipment and techniques.

    Input from the employment sector has allowed Shepherd University to keep its curricula up-to-date and representative of current trends in business and industry.


    1. Employers identify potential co-op sites:

      • High turnover positions

      • Seasonal, temporary, and/or contractual positions

      • Special projects

      • Departments with growth or expansion plans

      • Departments with unmet personnel needs

    2. Employers submit detailed job descriptions to the co-op office.

    3. The co-op office will forward job descriptions to appropriate academic departments for approval and posting.

    4. The co-op office will refer all interested students who meet the qualifications specified in the job description.

    5. Employers use their standard hiring procedures and inform the co-op office of placements and anticipated start dates.

    6. Employers assist in the development of a "Learning Agreement," which identifies learning objectives and the specific job tasks through which they will be achieved.

    7. Co-op staff will monitor students' progress and remain available should any problems arise.

    8. Employers complete Mid-term Assessments and Final Evaluations to assist faculty members in determining course grades each semester (Fall, Spring, Summer).

    9. Toward the end of the term, employers review their needs for the next semester and may select any of the following options:

      • Mutually agree with the student to continue for additional co-op terms. This would involve the development of new "learning objectives" for each term.

      • Convert the student into a regular hire.

      • Request additional students.

      • Select a new student.

      • Request not to have a co-op for the next term.


    A quality co-op assignment is the culmination of employers and educators working together to produce an integrated program combining classroom learning with on-the-job training. If it is designed carefully, it will prepare the student for career entry while providing the employer with a valued service.

    1. Cooperative education is a cross-discipline program, consequently, there is a great deal of variance in work assignments. There are, however, some general components that quality assignments in all career fields might share:

    2. Clearly defined job descriptions outlining tasks and responsibilities to be assumed.

    3. Challenging work assignments that are compatible with career goals. Opportunities for professional mentoring.

    4. An emphasis on the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

    5. Opportunities for career exploration by student (e.g., interviewing co-workers, speaking with the Personnel Director, etc.).

    6. Participation in on-site visits conducted by co-op staff and/or faculty members.

    7. Assignment of a co-op supervisor who will be available to provide training and feedback on performance and who will conduct Mid-term Assessments and Final Evaluations, using the forms provided by the co-op office.

    8. Provision of increasingly complex assignments as the student shows progress.

    9. Inclusion of the co-op student in staff meetings, routings, breaks, and other team activities.


    1. Provide job descriptions and company literature, if available.

    2. Interview co-op candidates and make hiring decisions.

    3. Determine remuneration for co-op assignments.

    4. Provide orientation/training to co-op students.

    5. Provide opportunities for co-op students to achieve desired learning objectives.

    6. Establish regular weekly meetings to provide direction and feedback to students.

    7. Provide challenging work assignments that relate to students' career goals.

    8. Complete mid-term and final evaluation forms and return to co-op office on requested dates.

    9. Allow for a progression toward increased work responsibilities.

    10. Advise the co-op office of any problems or concerns that may arise and report any changes in students' employment.

    NOTE: Shepherd University is an affirmative action/equal opportunity institution that expects participating organizations to offer employment to qualified applicants without regard to race, religion, national origin, age, sex, disability, political affiliation, or marital status.


    1. Maintain a candidate pool for employers and a co-op job listing for students.

    2. Refer all interested and qualified students without discrimination.

    3. Prepare students for workforce entry through workshops on résumé writing and interview techniques.

    4. Coordinate work and study in a manner that will facilitate students' educational development.

    5. Furnish employers with requested information related to students' academic majors and class standings.

    6. Review and sign Learning Agreements, which identify responsibilities of all parties.

    7. Monitor students' progress during their co-ops and remain available to both students and employers should any problems or concerns arise.

    8. Review employer evaluations and forward to academic departments for the assignment of grades.

    9. Inform employers of any changes in the academic status of their co-op students.


    1. Meet with the Director of Cooperative Education to learn more about program requirements:

      • Must be a Second Year student that has completed six credits of course work related to their major or minor.

      • Minimum GPA of 2.5 overall.

      • Each department has the right to set higher or lower participation standards.

    2. Obtain approval from a faculty advisor and academic department chair.

    3. Advise co-op staff of interviews, job offers, acceptance, and start date.

    4. Complete and return all co-op forms to co-op office.

    5. Fulfill expectations and duties assigned by employer.

    6. Maintain professional manner at work.

    7. Maintain contact with faculty coordinator. Notify coordinator or co-op staff of any problems that may arise.

    8. Complete academic assignments for co-op course.

    9. Provide statement of total earnings during co-op assignment to the co-op office.

    10. Complete academic assignments for co-op course.

    11. Provide statement of total earning during co-op assignment to the co-op office.

    12. Register and pay for academic credit concurrently with co-op assignment.


    The Learning Agreement is a dynamic tool used to structure the cooperative work experience so that both employer and student goals will be accomplished. It is intended to be flexible and individualized so that the student and the employer may derive optimal enrichment from the cooperative work experience.

    The Learning Agreement is developed by each co-op student in conjunction with the faculty co-op coordinator and the employer. Through the Learning Agreement, three to six measurable Learning Objectives are developed for each co-op assignment.

    The Learning Agreement allows faculty members to assess the quality of a co-op assignment and determine the number of academic credits that it merits. It will also assist the employer with training and supervision and will give the student a clear understanding of work expectations.

    The Learning Agreement should be completed, signed by all parties, and filed with the co-op office prior to the beginning of work on a specific co-op assignment. For ongoing assignments, new Learning Objectives must be developed for each semester of the co-op experience.


    Relate specifically to the work experience and to the academic major or career goal.

    Are specific and achievable within the time frame of the Learning Agreement (usually a semester).

    Are linked with the job tasks through which they will be achieved (see Appendix C for examples).


    Thank you for considering the formation of a partnership with Shepherd University. We are confident that our cooperative education program will supply your organization with qualified, professional employees.


    Cooperative Education | P.O. Box 5000 | Shepherdstown, West Virginia | 25443-5000 | 304-876-5477 | 800-344-5231