Work in the Making
1912 was the last year of the William Howard Taft administration in Washington and the first year of co-operative education at Georgia Tech. The co-op program at Tech wasn’t the first in the US, but it was in line with ‘new’ higher-educational thinking; college students should have a way to implement the theory they learn in lecture, plus acquire another source of funding for tuition. From the standpoint of Tech, the program would strengthen its presence in corporate Georgia, and was also a way to identify so-called ’gifted’ students. The term ‘co-op’ comes not from the title given to students, but from ‘cooperative’ employers, who would agree to sign up students for work. The pay rate was fifteen cents an hour, with a guarantee of full-time employment upon graduation. Eight students enrolled that first year, all industrial or mechanical engineers, and they were hired by a total of six Georgia companies. A single administrator--originally a classroom instructor--served as liaison between employers and students, recruiting from both pools, and then formally approving the assigned jobs.
Originally, co-op students were academically separate from regular students and even housed in their own dorm. And there were no women accepted until 1954. Even after women were admitted to Tech, employers were reticent to hire them because of the commonly held belief that women would get married upon graduation and not pursue a career. Women co-ops and interns are now active participants in Georgia Tech's experiential education offerings, comprising roughly one-third of participating Tech students.
Student interning was added to the experiential learning program at Tech in the 1960s. Now, students had even more opportunities for employment because more employers were taking part, offering a wider range of positions. Co-operative education is defined by a minimum of three semesters of work at the same company, on a rotating semester basis. Interning, which got impetus in the US in the post-war business boom, meant an employer could bring on a student worker for a minimum of just one semester. This flexibility appealed to both students and employers because the formally agreed upon time was less, yet could be extended at will. The Jobs Center at Tech became the Division of Professional Practice, with a growing number of administrators assigned as liaisons between prospective employers and potential new-hires.
The acquisition of all those jobs meant the need for advice and help about attaining them, so Career Services was born. Resume-writing, how-to workshops on interviewing and business communication, and finding jobs within your major were just part of what this new office embarked upon. It was no longer enough to just get a job; students needed to think about the long-term aspects of a career, and even how to succeed once they’d attained it. Students now had a career advisor, if they needed any sort of help at any time in the employment process.
The offices of the Georgia Tech Division of Professional Practice and Career Services were merged in 2013, becoming the Center for Career Discovery and Development, which means students and employers can now access seamless service at any time during the career attainment and recruiting processes. Pre-professional advising and fellowship coaching were added in 2015, so students can get help in pursuing graduate school admission in fields such as teaching, medicine, or law. With a staff of just under thirty trained and degreed professionals, C2D2 offers one-stop shopping for any student thinking about life upon graduation.
Much has changed in the world of work and education since the inception of the co-op program at Georgia Tech over 100 years ago. More than 2,000 students accepted internship or co-op positions in summer and fall of 2015, and more than 1,800 employers actively recruit here. The Center for Career Discovery and Development is charged with matching students with their goals, and employers with ideal candidates, and for bridging the world of education with that of satisfying careers.