100 Years of Cooperative Education

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Salvatore Di Schino finished college during the Great Depression, when few companies were hiring. Nicholas Langswager graduated in May, when new graduates were facing similar challenges of finding jobs in their field. But Di Schino and Langswager landed immediate full-time work after graduation—76 years apart—because of RIT’s cooperative education program.

The co-op program, which kicked off in 1912 with 32 students at a dozen local companies, turns 100 years old this academic year. Although it has transformed from providing the local economy with skilled workers to a global initiative, the goal of getting students solid jobs after graduation remains the same.

“The typical co-op student who graduates is far more experienced, far more savvy, far more in tune with what they like and don’t like,” says Manny Contomanolis, associate vice president and director of the Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services. “They are more seasoned. They are more capable. That’s what employers want on top of their core skills and abilities.”

Today, more than 3,500 students a year complete 5,500 work assignments with 2,000 companies worldwide. About 60 percent of those students are offered jobs after graduation, Contomanolis says.

Di Schino ’36 (mechanical engineering) started his 41-year career at Eastman Kodak Co. as a co-op student. Langswager ’12 (graphic design) was offered a full-time position in March at Fisher-Price designing toy packages and instruction pamphlets after completing a work assignment.

Profiles of alumni and current co-op students highlight the relevance of the co-op program today.