Co-ops make students industry-ready

Rachel Logan, Features Editor

Co-op opportunities allow some engineering students to earn degrees while working, which may beat out summer internships in long-term usefulness.

Senior mechanical engineer technology student Dan Klein has completed three semester-long cycles with three different departments at Honda Motor Co. in Raymond and East Liberty, Ohio. Klein is to graduate in December.

Klein said he knew he wanted to work in the auto industry, but that it took until his junior year to obtain a compatible co-op spot.

“I went up to any auto company and floated my interest. Honda was the first I really resonated with.”

Klein said he worked in quality control for both pre-owned warranty parts and parts created faulty at a manufacturing plant. He said he set up the structure himself to help his last department liaison with a co-op student. 

“It’s more student-driven as to what you do,” he said, as opposed to company-driven as it is for internships. 

“It’s important to take the most advantage of what the company is offering. Extra training? Take it. Extra weekend work? Take these opportunities and get your face out there.”

Klein said he had the opportunity to volunteer on Honda’s racing team, competing in hours-long races against Ferrari and Lamborghini teams. 

He also said that Pitt-Johnstown provides a lot of opportunities that may help applicants stand out among those from other schools. 

“Steel Bridge, Concrete Canoe and Baja—especially Baja if you’re looking at the auto industry. Take your passions and look at them in a technical manner, and reflect that in your resume.”

Klein said these engineering clubs may help students regain hands-on experience they may not have gotten with the new non-technology engineering program.

Senior mechanical technology student Alex Hissong also completed several co-op cycles and plans to graduate in December. He found out about the opportunity when Pitt-Oakland’s program coordinator spoke at his freshman seminar. He then attended Pitt-Oakland’s co-op fair and filed several applications.

Hissong said he originally worked a cycle with Sunoco, but, when the location was bought out, he was forced to switch to a co-op with Volvo Construction Equipment in Shippensburg, Franklin and Cumberland counties.

At Volvo, Hissong said he researched cost avoidance and worked with assembly.

“You usually do three rotations with the same company, unless you leave because it’s not a good fit or you’re not enjoying it.” 

“The other nice thing is you might get an offer—that’s pretty common.

It’s something to set you out, give you an edge. There’s an extra semester, but it’s worth the work,” Hissong said.

He said that a co-op acts like a normal job with a normal paycheck. His co-op company paid for his housing, as well. 

“I found the one at Sunoco because I was trying to avoid awkward eye contact with the person at the table—we talked, they offered me an interview on the spot and they hired me.”

To those thinking about applying to a co-op opportunity, Hissong sends confidence.

“Don’t ever skip out on an application, even if you don’t think it’s possible or feasible. There might be something on your application that makes you stand out.” 

Senior mechanical engineering technology student Edward Deutsch said the most interesting thing about his co-op at Salem Tube Inc. in Greenville, Mercer County, was when he was sent to Spain for 10 days, all expenses paid. 

Deutsch described a building holding a three-story tall metal tube, glowing red hot, that he watched workers pierce through and crafting smaller tubes out of. 

“I learned more in those (10 days) than I did in an entire semester. It’s a huge talking point,” Deutsch said. 

“You’re not going to get experience until you go get it.”

Deutsch said that Pitt-Oakland officials check in with companies and co-op students to make sure they’re not running coffee to employees.