How Co-Ops Can Boost Your Employer Brand

A student participates in a co-op program.

More and more companies are creating co-ops to seed their talent pipeline. The hope is that with some nurturing, graduate and undergraduate students who participate in these programs will grow into tomorrow’s full-time employees.

But a well-run co-op program can do more than provide you with future hires. It can also improve your employer branding. Here are some strategies for creating a co-op that boosts your employer branding.

What is a Co-Op Program?

Some companies use the terms “co-op” and “internship” interchangeably, but co-ops and internships are not the same thing. A co-op usually refers to a full-time, paid position with a company throughout the course of a semester, and students typically don’t take classes at the same time. An internship often takes place during the summer, or on a part-time basis during the semester, and may be paid or unpaid, depending on the employer.

Provide a Meaningful Experience

The best co-ops don’t just provide value to employers, the students also gain new skills and make valuable connections.

“Our internship program is designed to provide undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity to experience what it’s like to work in professional services by giving them roles similar to those of a full-time campus hire,” says Scott McQuillan, a senior manager and tax recruiting leader at Deloitte. “Not giving interns an experience that gives them an idea of what it’s like to work at the company full-time can damage the overall brand.”

Promote Your Co-Ops on Social Media

Deloitte created a social media platform that interns use during their time at Deloitte University. Interns can then post about their experiences on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Similarly, some colleges have internal boards where students post reviews of their co-op experiences to help other students decide where they want to work. Positive reviews can help build a stronger employer brand, while less than favorable reviews can be damaging. Check in with your college co-op or internship representative to see how your employer brand is faring among their college students. Listen to the feedback and make relevant changes.

Encourage Networking

Make sure your co-ops provide ample opportunities for participants to network with each other and your permanent staffers.¬†Keri Vadala, the college relations manager at Kronos Incorporated, stresses the importance of networking and community service. “We provide our interns and co-op students with opportunities to network, give back to the community, and attend social events so they can get to know one another. They are encouraged to attend all social events that are open to full-time employees.”

Giving students opportunities to network and socialize makes them feel as if they are already permanent employees, improving their overall experience with your company.

Stay Connected With Alumni

Companies are also recognizing the value of staying connected with students throughout the school year and beyond. Some even implement ambassador programs for alumni.

Purdue University students typically complete co-ops with the same employer throughout their three or five co-op sessions. This allows students to take on more responsibility as they move through the co-op experience. It also provides companies with an opportunity to continue to engage the students they may want to hire after graduation.

“During campus visits for recruiting trips, we lean on previous interns for brand building,” says Michael Stoppelman, senior vice president of engineering for Yelp. “We encourage them to host informal events where recruiters aren’t present and they can have even more direct conversations about their time at Yelp. We call these folks Intern Emissaries.” Yelp also hosts intern alumni dinners. “Whether they’re returning to Yelp or pursuing other opportunities, this helps us stay connected and keeps Yelp on their radar screens.”

While you may not be able to convert every co-op student into a full-time hire, even those students who don’t return can help with boosting your brand and recruiting others. Remain available to help former interns as they navigate their careers and ask them for introductions to people they think might be a good fit for your company.

Continue to Strengthen Your Employer Brand

These tips will help you create co-ops that help you improve your employer brand and increase your talent pipeline. Download Monster’s free Employer Branding Guide to learn more ways to boost your employer brand.