How Co-op Works

How Co-op Works

How Do I Get Started?

Preparatory Coursework: All sophomore students must successfully complete the required, one credit Professional Development Seminar (26.210). This course is designed to provide you with a plan of action to secure a co-op position. You will learn how and where to search for a co-op, craft a polished resume, practice your interviewing skills, and develop professional learning goals. You’ll also learn about the professional expectations in the workplace and how to succeed on the job.

Eligibility and Approval Process: Once you have completed 26.210, you will seek the approval of your faculty advisor to participate in the Voluntary Co-op Curriculum Track during the summer following your sophomore year. You must be in good academic standing and able to responsibly represent UMass Lowell and the Plastics Engineering Department.

Transfer students: may participate in co-op after accruing 64 applicable transfer credits, completing the Professional Development Seminar and at least one full semester at UMass Lowell.

International students: who are eligible for Curricular Practical Training are also welcome to enroll in Co-op. 

You formally declare your interest by reviewing and completing the Co-op Student Contract and Statement of Understanding and submitting it to the Office of Career Services. 

How Do I Search for A Co-op?

The Plastics Engineering Department has an extensive network of alumni and industry contacts that we are able to tap to help you secure a co-op experience.  However, it is important to understand that we do not guarantee co-op placements; the process for securing a co-op is competitive and ultimately rests with you, and not the Plastics Department. 

We strongly recommend you begin the co-op search process at least a semester ahead and use all possible resources and networking opportunities in your search, including the following:

  • CareerLINK, the Career Services database of jobs and internships.
  • Binder of co-ops housed in the Plastics Engineering Department.
  • Announcements of opportunities during the weekly Safety Lecture.
  • Individual consultation with Faculty Co-op Advisors and the Career Services staff.
  • Internship Search sites on the Career Services website.
  • Attendance at Engineering, Technology Career Fairs and Co-op Expo's..
  • Networking with family and friends.
  • Targeted research of specific local, regional, and national companies.
  • Research companies who have hired UMass Lowell Plastics students in co-ops and full-time positions.
  • Utilization of UCAN Mentors, a network of alumni and friends of UMass Lowell who have volunteered to provide advice and information to students.
  • Attendance at Plastics Engineering events and professional association meetings.

Remember to keep your Faculty Co-op Advisor and the Career Services Office apprised of your progress as you search for a co-op position. They are great resources and they will need to approve any co-op position you secure.

I’ve Been Offered a Co-op! Now What Do I Do?

  • As soon as you have been offered a Co-op position, share the potential co-op position description with your Co-op Faculty Advisor (Professor Driscoll). He must evaluate the position and approve the appropriateness of the learning content.
  • Once approved, accept the co-op position!  So there are no misunderstandings, it is best to accept the position in writing directly to your on-site supervisor or the human resources representative.
  • Depending upon your level of participation in the co-op program, register for:
    Cooperative Education I
    26.491.703 Co-op Experience I for 0 credit (Summer Term) Co-op Assessment I for 1 credit (Fall Semester)
    Cooperative Education II
    26.492.703 Co-op Experience II  0 credit (Summer Term)
    26.410 Co-op Assessment II  2 credits (Fall Term)
    Cooperative Education III
    26.493.703 Co-op Experience III (0-3 credits) (Fall or Spring Semester)
  • Complete the following documents and submit them to the Office of Career Services PRIOR to beginning your co-op employment: 
  1. Student Co-op Contract and Statement of Understanding Agreement.
  2. Student/Employer Information Sheet.
  3. Employer Statement of Understanding and Co-op Student Position Description.
    (This must be completed by your employer, approved and signed by the Faculty Co-op Advisor.)

    For International Students only: Curricular Practical Training (This permission form must also be approved and signed by your Faculty Co-op Advisor and International Student Advisor.)

You are responsible for completing the required documentation, obtaining all the necessary signatures and submitting these materials to the Office of Career Services. You may not begin your co-op employment until all the necessary information is on file. If you have questions about any of the above procedures, please contact Jim McGonigle, Co-op Coordinator, at 978-934-2742, or Professor Driscoll in the Plastics Engineering Department.

How Can I Make My Co-op a Successful Experience? 

Getting Off on the Right Foot 

It’s always important to make a good first impression, so plan carefully how you will conduct yourself as a new employee of organization, and how you will relate to and interact with your supervisor and co-workers. 

Here are a few “best practices” to help you launch a successful co-op experience.

Dress the Part

Look for clues from your supervisor and other staff members about appropriate dress. Dress neatly and professionally for your position. If you have questions about the particular dress code, ask your supervisor. During your first few weeks on the job, it’s better to be more conservative than casual in your attire.

Be There…Every Day

Make sure you know how long it will take you to get to work, find a place to park, and actually get settled at your desk. Do a test drive in rush-hour traffic before you start your co-op. There are no excuses for being late.

Unless you encounter a true emergency situation, maintain a flawless attendance record, and, if invited, attend all staff meetings and regularly scheduled seminars and programs. If you do need to be absent, make sure you contact your supervisor well in advance.

A Good Attitude Goes a Long Way

A positive, upbeat “can do” attitude is essential to making a good, first impression. Your ability to relate to your co-workers in a friendly and respectful fashion will set the stage for your co-op experience. It will be noticed and commented upon from day one! If you demonstrate a good attitude, a high level of dependability and willingness to work hard, your supervisor will be more likely to trust you with interesting and challenging projects.

Use Technology Wisely

With 24/7 access to Internet, e-mail, Google, Twitter, and Facebook, it is very tempting to use the company’s computer to carry on your life outside of work. Don’t do it! In most organizations, the company is only giving you a computer to conduct their business. E-mailing your friends to set up a party on Friday night, sending “Tweets” or surfing the Internet for vacation spots can get you fired. Companies can and do monitor their employees’ computer usage.

Learn the Organizational Culture and Company Policies

Every organization has its own way of doing business, adheres to specific policies, and has certain performance expectations of its employees. Before you start your position, reread the company web site to become better acquainted with your organization, its various departments, products, and services.  Make sure you also understand the specific responsibilities of your position description and any policies related to the company’s co-op program.

Once you are on the job, observe how people and different departments interact and relate to one another. Inquire about the best way to get oriented to your new environment. Some companies with well established co-op programs have a formal orientation schedule and others may just give you a tour and point you in the direction of basic resources. Ask your supervisor for an organizational chart and any important company policies and procedures so you can more quickly understand how things work and adhere to company regulations.

Establish Your Accountability through Learning Objectives

Meet with your supervisor within the first month of co-op to discuss goals (learning objectives) and expectations.  Then complete 3-5 Learning Objectives and submit to the Co-op Office. Document your objectives and indicators of achievement on the Mid-Term Learning Objectives and Performance Indicators form so that it is clear to you and your supervisor how your work will be evaluated throughout the work period. Twice during your co-op employment, you will review, assess, and submit your learning objectives to the Office of Career Services. 

How will I be Evaluated on My Co-op Experience?

It is our hope that your on-site supervisor will offer you feedback throughout  your  employment period. At the end of your employment, your supervisor will discuss your progress toward your established learning objectives and conduct a formal performance evaluation. In addition, at the conclusion of your co-op employment, we will ask you to submit to the Office of Career Services a candid and confidential evaluation of your organization and co-op experience.

You are responsible for the timely submission of the following documents to the Office of Career Services.

  • Within the first month:
    Set-up of Learning Objectives and Performance Indicators
  • During the Co-op experience:
    Information interview
    Employer brochure
  • Last two weeks:
    Final Student Evaluation
    Final Student Evaluation of Co-op Employment Site

My Co-op is Over - Now What?

Debriefing Your Experience and Earning Academic Credit 

The Career Service team and Faculty Co-op Advisors have created a formalized assessment process and classroom experience through which you will have the opportunity to thoroughly debrief your co-op experience. With other Plastics Engineering students who have just concluded their co-op experience, and depending upon whether you have completed your first or second co-op work period, you will enroll in Co-op Assessment I or II (26.310 or 26.410). 

Your self-assessment process and course will include small group sessions and individual work. Using both of these approaches, you will be asked to candidly review your individual performance, to assess how your on-the-job learning connects to your academic studies, and to think about how your experience may influence your future career decisions. You may be required to present a project or specific piece of work that represents a contribution you made to your organization. Once you have successfully completed the requirements of the assessment course, you will earn the appropriate academic credit for your experience. You are granted one academic credit for Co-op Assessment I and two credits for Co-op Assessment II.

Co-op Forms

All the required components of the Co-op Contracts and Evaluations are available below in Microsoft Word format. You can also obtain all of these forms from your co-op faculty advisor or the Career Services Office in University Crossing, Suite 450.

The Co-op Contract consists of four distinct documents (or five documents for international students): The Student Co-op Contract and Statement of Understanding, Student and Employer Information, Employer Statement of Understanding, Co-op Student Position Description. International students are required to include the Curricular Practical Training form as well. (All are MS Word files)

  • Student and Employer Co-op Contract and Job Description
  • Student Co-op Contract and Statement of Understanding
  • Employer Statement of Understanding
  • Student Co-op Position Description
  • Curricular Practical Training Regulations for F-1 Students

Students are responsible for obtaining all the necessary signatures and submitting these documents to the Office of Career Services. You may not begin your co-op employment until all information is on file with the Office of Career Services.

It is strongly recommended that you and your employer mutually agree upon, monitor, and submit student learning objectives within the first month of the co-op experience. Information on how to establish learning objectives and the appropriate documents are in Word format below:

At the conclusion of each co-op work term, an evaluation of your performance must be completed by the employer, discussed with you, and submitted to the Office of Career Services. You are also requested to submit a confidential evaluation about your co-op site and experience. MS Word files are below.

  • Final Student Evaluation.
  • Final Student Evaluation of Co-op Employment Site.

Top 12 Tips for Co-op Students

1. Don't be afraid to talk with people. Make the first move and find time to talk with co-workers and supervisors.

2. Ask for things to do. Do not wait to be given an assignment. Take the initiative to solve a problem, research a solution, start a discussion.

3. Learn all you can about the industry in which you work. Talk with people in different departments and areas. If allowed, speak with clients and vendors.

4. Read everything you can get your hands on. Ask your supervisor for reading material beyond the standard "training manual."

5. Don't gripe about grunt work. Everyone does it. Use the opportunity to learn how the small tasks fit into the bigger picture of the business.

6. Take advantage of the fact that you are a student. Everyone wants to help a student learn. Ask questions, access opportunities.

7. Find a mentor. Learn from people who are the superstar performers, the most respected members of the organization.

8. Get in the loop. Decisions are not always made in a conference room. Tap into the "informal" resources of the company - eat lunch in the cafeteria, join the bowling league, participate in the book club.

9. Ask to attend meetings, training sessions, and events. You may not be allowed to go to everything, but more often than not, you'll be welcomed.

10. Use your learning objectives to help you and supervisor evaluate your work. Keep a portfolio of your projects and make sure you leave the organization with strong, written references.

11. If you are having a serious problem on the job, connect first with the Co-op team in the Office of Career Services to gain support and perspective. They can help you troubleshoot the issue and will know when it might be appropriate to meet with your supervisor or intervene on your behalf.

12. Never, ever burn a bridge. You never know when you will see someone again.

Taken with permission from Written by Bradley Richardson

Participating Employers 

We are pleased to acknowledge the support of a diverse group of companies who have partnered with the Plastics Department to engage and employ our students.

ABA-PGT Medtronic Vascular
Albany International Mercury Wine Products
Andover Polymers LLC Millipore
Angio Dynamics Moldflow/AutoDesk Corp.
Atrium Medical
Becton Dickinson Medical Mold-Rite Plastics, Inc.
Bemis Associates, Inc Netco Extended Plastics
Berry Plastics Newell/Rubbermaid
Boeing Noveon
Boston Scientific Corporation Nypro, Inc.
Carten Controls Plastic Diversity Solutions, LLC
Corning, Inc. Plastics Plus, Inc.
Creganna Medical Polonox Corporation
Crown Poly Proctor and Gamble
CSM Instruments Sabert Corporation
Cyro Industries SABIC Innovative Plastics
Fosta-Tek Optics SMC Ltd
Freudenberg-NOK Submillimeter Wave Tech Lab
Fuji Film Recording Media Teleflex Medical, Inc.
Fusion Optix,Inc TESco Associates, Inc.
Gloucester Engineering
US Army, Natick Center
Haartz Corporation Vaupell
Haemonetics Velcro USA, Inc.
Helix Medical Wasik Associates, Inc.
Husky Molding Systems Winovia, LLC
Jenline Industry 
Konarka Technologies