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Bucking the Trend: As Nation's Joblessness Increases, 2,000 Drexel Students Begin Co-op

PHILADELPHIA, August 31, 2010

The latest employment figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate the jobless rate has increased to 9.6 percent. This figure may leave some of the more than 3 million college freshmen entering universities this fall feeling uneasy about job prospects after graduation. Despite the recession, more than 2,000 Drexel students will begin six-month full-time co-op experiences across 73 major fields and earn an average weekly salary of $620. Co-op, short for cooperative education, is experience-based learning where students “learn by living” as they alternate periods of classroom study with periods of off-campus, full-time, paid professional-level employment in positions aligned with their academic interests. Co-op is similar to an internship, but continues for a longer period, and students are typically paid for their work. The availability of jobs to these students isn’t an economic fluke, but a combination of the benefits of co-op to businesses and the strategic planning of Drexel University’s Steinbright Career Development Center (SCDC). “In the fall of 2008, the University brought in a labor market economist who provided insight into the market changes which enabled us to anticipate industries that would lose co-op jobs,” Peter Franks, Senior Associate Vice Provost for Career Education, said. “We were then able to seek out alternative positions in advance, and as result Drexel students saw a five percent increase in the total number of co-op opportunities.” The increase in available positions comes at a time when national co-op hiring remains depressed. The National Association of Colleges and Employers has indicated that companies expect to hire 2.8 percent fewer co-ops this year than in 2009. Franks attributes Drexel’s success in overcoming this trend to his hard-working staff of 50. Drexel students are seeing a co-op employment rate significantly better than the national average as more than 98 percent of students in the program receive placement. “We’re very successful at finding quality opportunities for students despite the recession,” Franks admitted. The scope of Drexel’s co-op offerings have been increasing. Currently 21 percent of the more than 4,500 students on co-op annually will take positions outside the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Delaware area including positions abroad. Last year Drexel co-op students worked in 35 countries. The University’s quarterly academic calendar allows students to balance professional experience with academic excellence. About a third of Drexel students are on co-op throughout the year, typically during the fall and winter or the spring and summer terms. Unlike traditional universities, Drexel students are active year-round. Preparation for professional success begins early. More than 2,750 new freshmen, a record for the University, will spend the next few months assessing their career interests, preparing resumes and practicing interview skill to help them navigate the co-op process, which is preparation for their careers. “Drexel students graduate from five-year programs with 18 months of professional work experience, a solid professional network and about 30 to 40 job interviews under their belt,” Franks said. “They are prepared to be productive immediately.” And businesses have recognized the benefits. Across the nation, the class of 2009 saw the worst labor market in 60 years. An SCDC survey saw more than 50 percent of responding graduating seniors were offered a position with a former co-op employer and 41 percent of those who received job offers accepted a position with a former co-op employer. As a result of Drexel’s partnerships with local, national and international employers, the SCDC hosts the largest academic career fair in Greater Philadelphia twice a year. Established more than 90 years ago, Drexel’s co-op program is the second largest in the nation. ### News Media Contact: Craig Eisenberger, 215-895-2705, cae24@drexel.edu