The idea of college usually includes imagery of summers spent at internships, unpaid and fetching coffee. Materials joining engineering majors Jordan Boston and Zach Danko, on the other hand, are taking their careers into their own hands and making the investment of participating in a co-op with Mercedes-Benz.
A co-op differs from a traditional internship in that the student works at the company for three alternating semesters as a regular employee, totaling approximately a year’s worth of paid work while still being enrolled as a full-time student. Scholarships and loans stay intact.
Boston, a sophomore from Boise, Idaho, started his first semester at the beginning of the summer, and Danko, a senior from Santa Barbara California, will go for his first semester in the fall. They’ll be working in body shops, joining Mercedes parts. Their time there will also include researching on joining aluminum, which gives vehicles better gas mileage. In fact, they were both chosen for Mercedes’ labs for their specialty in materials joining, as LETU’s program is one of the few of its kind in the world.
Some students may be hesitant to pursue a co-op as it interrupts the traditional four-year education, but that wasn’t a problem for either Boston or Danko.
“It’s about the job opportunities. I’m thinking forward and investing in my career,” Boston said. “I’ll still be able to finish in five years of school.”
A co-op puts a student one year behind in graduating, but it’s a small sacrifice for the investment it puts into one’s lifelong career.
“Co-ops present an incredible opportunity for our students. They provide hands-on experience that is valuable both as a trial run of a potential career field and as an opportunity to put classroom learning into practice in the workplace,” Kristy Morgan, senior director of Career Services, said.
LeTourneau’s Career Services department presented the co-op opportunity to both students and progressed quickly from there.
“Career Services made it easy. I got my interview about a week after I talked to them about it and had the job two weeks later,” Danko said.
Danko said he’s not worried about getting a job once he graduates.
“A co-op gives a lot better chance of job security. They’re investing more in you. You’re going to be there longer and they want to grow you more into their company than at an internship,” he said.
Most co-op students get offered jobs upon graduation. “Students who complete co-ops often leave with a full-time job offer and are highly marketable to other employers as well,” Morgan said.
The only problem? According to Danko: “People keep asking me if I can get them a discount on a Mercedes.”