The University of Cincinnati’s Co-operative Education Program Ranked # 4

On a sunny Tuesday, 20-year-old Tyler Wirth jumps into an elevator at the University of Cincinnati dormitory construction site on Calhoun Street.

It’s a rocky ride with eight people crammed into the winch, but Wirth smiles and ensures it’s safe.

Before descending to the 13th floor, the top floor of the residence which was recently gutted and is now being renovated to accommodate 822 students, Wirth’s eyes light up.

“This is probably my favorite view of Cincinnati,” he says.

And it’s a beautiful sight. On one side, you can make out the crown atop the Great American Tower in the Cincinnati skyline, and on the other, you can look out over the entire UC campus. After the building is finished, some students might even watch a football game from their dorm window, looking out over Nippert Stadium.

Tyler Wirth, a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati, who works as a project engineer for Messer Construction as part of the UC Co-op Program, watches a construction site before performing a safety inspection on the campus of the University of Cincinnati on Tuesday, November 16, 2021. Wirth is in his second semester of cooperative work at UC.  Wirth's tasks at Messer include carrying out safety checks on a construction site.

This is Wirth’s twelfth week in his current co-op education experience with Messer Construction, although he also worked with the builder last spring and kept in touch with his supervisor during his classes. ‘summer. UC consistently ranks among college co-op programs. Officials said the program only gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wirth says he’s already walked the building from the top to the ground floor at least 50 times, taking safety walks three or more times a week. He likes to know about construction at the university. Sometimes his friends wonder aloud, “Dude, what are they doing in Calhoun?” And Wirth can tell them – up to how many beds the dorm will accommodate and which first and last rooms will be ready for occupancy.

Starting at the top, Wirth walks around each floor with his manager and UC Industrial Hygienist and Construction Safety Specialist John Burke for a security check. They seek to ensure that general safety protocols are followed: detecting the risk of falls, ensuring that power cords are stowed and that the platform and the wheels of the trolleys are locked. If problems arise, Wirth notes them on his iPad and sends a photo to the appropriate foreman.

The words “Safety is my responsibility” are displayed on his green helmet for Messer, who ranked fifth among private companies in the Cincinnati area on the most recent Deloitte Cincinnati 100 list.

Wirth, one of the youngest on the construction site, says the hard hat gives him the confidence to let other workers know if they need to make a safety adjustment. Some of those employees are twice his age, which can be embarrassing, he says.

One of Wirth’s goals when he started his fall co-op was to work on his communication skills. He says he’s had the opportunity to do this daily by having morning meetings with the foremen, and he can already tell he’s doing better.

Tyler Wirth, a sophomore from the University of Cincinnati who works as a project engineer for Messer Construction as part of the UC co-op program, performs a safety inspection of a Messer construction site on the UC campus Tuesday, November 16, 2021. Wirth is in his second semester of cooperative work at UC.

“Now I’m on a first name basis with all of them,” Wirth says.

115 years of co-op at UC

The University of Cincinnati Co-op Program has moved to# 4 in latest US News & World Report rankings, released in mid-September of this year. The local program has historically placed in the top 5 co-op programs in the country.

Its notoriety is enough to attract students from all over the world. Anshumi Dhingra, a graduate student of the prestigious UC College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, received her undergraduate degree from CEPT University in India. She told The Enquirer that she was particular about what kind of program she wanted in a graduate program.

“At UC, the highlight was that there was a co-op while you were studying as well,” Dhingra said. All of the other programs she applied to had internship experience towards the end of the degree, while UC’s graduate program requires two co-ops. “So you kind of get insight into work experience with academics. ”

The university actually founded the concept of cooperative education 115 years ago, said Gigi Escoe, vice-president of undergraduate studies at UC and dean of the experiential learning division. and vocational training. The first programs were for engineering students, but now students of any major can apply for positions with the university’s more than 2,200 global partners.

Each co-op is specific to the individual needs of a student, she said. And unlike an internship, the cooperative is integrated into the student’s study program. Escoe said UC is constantly looking to improve its curriculum, first to meet the growing and changing needs of students, and then to meet growing industry demands in the wake of labor shortages caused by the pandemic.

“It’s not following someone who’s having coffee,” Escoe said. “It’s not a job match.”

Following: How UC Is Working To Reduce IT Talent Shortage With High School Recruitment Program

Undergraduates in engineering, information technology and DAAP must complete at least three cooperative experiences before graduation, Escoe said.

Tyler Wirth, a sophomore from the University of Cincinnati who works as a project engineer for Messer Construction as part of the UC co-op program, takes a picture of a safety issue during a safety inspection of a job site Building Messer on the UC campus on Tuesday November 16, 2021. Wirth is in his second semester of cooperative work at UC.  Wirth's tasks at Messer include carrying out safety checks on a construction site.

“So when they graduate, they have almost two years of work experience,” Escoe explained. “And they’re usually hired into positions that aren’t entry level, but they take into account that they have two years of work experience. , both in salary and in title.

Business students are also required to participate in a professional learning experience, and all other majors have an “experiential learning” requirement that can be met through a service learning program, research undergraduate, study abroad, student education, clinical internship or co-op.

Escoe said university students participate in more than 8,000 work-study opportunities each year. Before the pandemic, students collectively earned more than $ 70 million a year. Last year, due to COVID-19, officials said co-op students made a total of around $ 58 million, although the number of students in the program has not declined. And the number of partners has actually increased, Escoe said, as more companies are in desperate need of workers.

“Work is forever changed,” Escoe said, in the wake of the pandemic. “And so the young people who are going out right now are going to have 50 or 60 year careers starting in this new world, aren’t they?” And they will come out of it. So it’s not just digital. How is it to make friends? How do you work as a team? How does the ideation take place? So I have to prepare them for this workforce, not for the one that existed in 2017. Because it is gone, forever.

“Best decision I have ever made. “

Dhingra completed a co-op at City Studios Architecture in Over-the-Rhine last year and is now in the process of applying for her next co-op experience. As an international student, she says learning about the culture of the American workplace is just as important to her as the design job.

For UC 2021 graduate Sydney O’Connor, the co-op program eased her fear of graduating without knowing if she actually enjoyed the career she was preparing for. It wasn’t until her third co-op at Tesla that she said she found a work culture and a job description that she could see for the long term.

“Come to think of it, it was hands down the best decision I’ve ever made,” O’Connor said of the decision to go to UC. “Not only did it help me decide what I wanted to do, it was just to take a break from class. It was good to make money. It makes Unified Communications incredibly affordable.

Today, O’Connor works as a Firmware Quality Engineer at Apple, where she completed her last co-op through UC before graduating. She has heard colleagues complain about student debt they have incurred in expensive private schools on the West Coast. O’Connor is grateful to the co-ops that allowed him to earn money instead of spending it on tuition for those semesters.

Wirth, now in his third year of college, says he prefers cooperative education to classes.

“I feel like direct work experience is the most important when embarking on any career,” he said. “You don’t get the hands-on experience in the classes.”

Towards the end of his safety march, Wirth takes a photo of a gaping hole in Calhoun Street where a guard is needed. His team installed a red chain near the entrance to the site so that no “zombies” – students walking with their eyes on their phones – could accidentally enter without the proper safety gear.

Burke punches him for Wirth’s good job today. Wirth smiles and returns to his small office across the street. Soon he will be heading home to his apartment less than a mile away and getting ready for track training. He says he is grateful for Messer’s flexibility with his athletic schedule and weekend competitions.

“It’s sort of the perfect situation for me right now,” he says. “Because they know we’re students and we still have, you know, that college life.”

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