Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC)

Community College of Allegheny County

Cooperative Education Guidelines

What is Cooperative Education?

Cooperative Education is a unique plan of education that integrates classroom study with planned and supervised career related work experience. A Student participates in on or off campus site and receives academic credit for his/her work experience.

The purpose of the program is to strengthen a Student’s education, personal development and career preparation.  Cooperative Education provides the Student with a working experience in his/her discipline and develops the ability to understand and perform appropriately in the dynamic work environment.

Co-op is available in the following majors:

Computer Information Technology


Engineering and Science Technologies
Health and Physical Education
Homeland Security

And more…

Cooperative Education offers advantages to the employer, the student and the college. 

The advantages to the Employer include:

  • A means of pre-screening and recruiting full-time employees.
  • A source of highly motivated temporary or seasonal part-time employees.
  • Reduced recruitment and training costs.
  • An attractive public relations option.
  • The opportunity to influence the design and content of college curriculum.

The advantages to the Student include:

  • An opportunity to gain valuable work experience relevant to the major area of study.
  • An opportunity to formulate career goals and to develop confidence and maturity.
  • Exposure to Employers who may hire them permanently upon completion of their degree.
  • An opportunity to work in laboratories or on equipment not available in the classroom.
  • Professional references to add to their portfolio.

The advantages to the College include:

  • Co-op helps to bring the curricula closer to the skills and knowledge requirements of Employers.
  • Provides an opportunity to complement college classrooms and laboratory materials and equipment.
  • Establishes a relationship between the college and business community.
  • Provides an opportunity to develop employment sources for all Students.

How Does the Co-op Program Work?

The Coordinator of Cooperative Education administers the Co-op Program. The Coordinator is responsible for assisting students to develop co-op employment opportunities and for referring qualified Students to fill positions posted by participating Employers.

Once a Student has secured a co-op position, the Coordinator, the Employer and the Student meet to complete the Training Agreement that contains the following information:

  1.    Work location.
  2.    Beginning and ending dates of work term.
  3.    Rate of pay.
  4.    Hours of work.
  5.    Job description.

The Employer entering into a Training Agreement with the Student and the College should keep the following guidelines in mind:

  1. Cooperative Education is first and foremost an educational program integrated with practical experience. Therefore, a Student’s work should be related to his/her field of study and individual interest within that field
  2. The work experience will ideally increase in difficulty and responsibility as the Student    progresses through the work term.
  3. The Student should be treated by the Employer as a regular employee subject to the policies and rules of the organization.
  4. It is expected that the Student will be paid at the prevailing rate for the type of work he/she performs and receive employee benefits to which they are entitled as part-time employees. 

Although the experience of CCAC and other colleges and universities is that job terminations are rare for Co-op Students, it is important to spell out policies governing the situation should it arise. 

If termination occurs for any reason (lay-off, strike, personal failures, reorganizations, etc.) the Student and the Employer must notify the Cooperation Education Coordinator immediately. The awarding of credit in such a situation will rest with facts of the particular situation.

What is Expected of the Employer?

The main responsibility of the Employer is to provide a productive and meaningful job experience for the Co-op Student. This means skillful placement, good supervision and an interest inhuman growth to fulfill the opportunity that Co-op Employers have in preparing Students for productive careers. Employers constitute a field faculty no college can provide on its own campus.

Once a Student has been selected/hired, the Employer and Student meet to develop the Training Agreement. The Employer and Student then meet with the Coordinator to sign the Training Agreement.

A Faculty Advisor, assigned to the Student, will visit the work site at least once during the work term to have the Employer evaluate the Student’s performance. This evaluation, which should be discussed with the Student, is a major criterion in awarding academic credit to the Student for the work experience. The Employer should feel free to contact the Coordinator or Faculty Advisor at any time during the work term, should the need arise.

What is Expected of the Student?

The Student is expected to maintain good standards of performance and work relationships throughout the work period. Opportunities for learning will depend on the student’s initiative and effort as well as the job environment.  Any special problems arising on the job should be discussed with the student’s Employer, Faculty Advisor or the Co-op Coordinator.

In order to participate and enroll in Cooperative Education, the Student must meet the following criteria:

  • Must have a GPA of 2.5 or higher.
  • Completed 30 college credits with at least 12 credits in their major field. 
  • The semester before graduation is preferred.
  • Receive faculty approval.
  • Secure clearances if they are needed.
  • Follow established processes and complete required paperwork.
  • Qualify for risk management coverage.

Once a Student has a work site, s/he will register for academic credit earning 3 or 6 credits depending on the number of hours worked during a specified time period. The following formula is used to determine credit registration during the fall and spring semesters. 

150 hours = 3 credits*    300 hours = 6 credits *
*During the summer term a Student must work 120 hours for 3 credits and 240 hours for 6 credits.

Once the Training Agreement has been completed, the Student meets with the Faculty Advisor to discuss the work assignment. The Student will also contact the Faculty Advisor at mid-term for a progress review. At the end of the semester, the Student will schedule a meeting between the Faculty Advisor and the Employer.

The Faculty Advisor will award the Student graded academic credit based on the employer’s evaluation, completion and quality of any work assigned by the Faculty Advisor and completion of required hours on the worksite.

What is Expected of the Coordinator of Cooperative Education?  

The Coordinator of Cooperative Education coordinates all aspects of the Co-op Program and is responsible for:

  • Preparing Students for the co-op program. 
  • Assisting Students to locate co-op job sites. 
  • Matching Students with employment opportunities. 
  • Securing the Training Agreement. 
  • Maintaining all co-op records.

Any questions or concerns from Students or Employers should be addressed to the Coordinator.

What is Expected of the Faculty Advisor?

The Faculty Advisor is assigned to supervise the student in their major field and is available for consultation concerning academic or technical assistance should the need arise. The Faculty Advisor works closely with the Coordinator of Cooperative Education.

The Faculty Advisor connects with the Student at least 3 times during the semester with one of those contacts being an on-site visit with the Employer. The contacts include:

  • Initial review of Training Agreement with Student and clarification of expectations. 
  • Mid-term progress review.
  • Final evaluation—on-site visit to work site to have Employer and Student complete evaluation form.
  • Awarding of academic credit. The grade is issued to a Student based on the Employer’s evaluation, any other work assigned by the Faculty Advisor and completion of required hours at the work site.

Learning Outcomes:

 Upon completion of this course, the Student will:

  • Demonstrate professionalism in attitudes and behaviors 
    • Be prompt and have consistent attendance. Contact the Employer in advance if going to be late or unable to attend.
    • Dress appropriately, meeting employer requirements.
    • Demonstrate clear written and verbal communication skills.
    • Work successfully as part of a team and/or independently as is required by the Employer and the job description.
    • Adapt readily to changes in the workplace.
    • Demonstrate honesty and integrity while observing confidentiality policies.
    • Identify workplace culture and adapt appropriately.
  • Demonstrate discipline skills and accept constructive criticism professionally. 
  • Compare and contrast classroom learning to cooperative education employment experience. 
  • Describe supervisor’s style of management and relate it to their own comfort and success in their co-op worksite. 
  • Describe any challenges or obstacles they experience in the workplace and list some actions to take to resolve the problems. Implement solutions if possible. 
  • Identify any opportunities to learn, take advantage of those opportunities and become more employable as a result of experiencing those learning opportunities.
  • Understand and articulate the usefulness of diversity, goal setting and time management in the workplace. 
  • Create and submit a short paper on a related topic and/or keep a learning journal.

For more information about Cooperative Education, contact the Job Placement & Career Services office on the campus that is most convenient to you. 

Allegheny Campus
808 Ridge Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
     Boyce Campus
595 Beatty Road
Monroeville, PA 15146
North Campus    
8701 Perry Highway
Pittsburgh, PA 15237
 South Campus
1750 Clairton Road
West Mifflin, PA 15122