When we chose to implement an engineering co-op program several years ago, we knew from the beginning we wanted it to be structured and purposeful. That purpose was to create a pipeline of young engineering talent to replace the aging engineers who were retiring, giving electrical engineering students exposure to the real world of automation and controls work.
From the beginning of their first day, co-op students are treated as future employees in training. Their training acquaints them with every aspect of the company, from business development to panel assembly, from CAD to accounting. They also have opportunities to become immersed in the company culture, including participation in softball and bowling teams, as well as social events, such as our annual soup day and our tailgate party kicking off the college football season.
Real, Meaningful Work
One of the universal comments made by our students is that we give them the opportunity to do real work, not make-busy work. A recent example was Kameron, an industrial engineering student at Auburn. She was assigned to our VP of Safety and Quality and was given the task of creating a safety video to be used to teach customers coming to our facility for factory acceptance testing the safety requirements for working in our test department. She also took the initiative to do some machine safety rework on equipment being used in our shop, including creating QR codes that can be used to access O&M manuals for shop machines.
In another example, first-term co-ops Avery and Hunter, electrical engineering students at University of Alabama and Auburn University, respectively, welcomed the challenge of programming PLCs. Both of them were surprised at how quickly they were allowed to begin applying themselves to projects that were making a difference. They were able to spend time programming a product we do for an OEM customer. That work was on a system used to control warehouse material handling systems, and it ended up being installed at a Tesla facility.
One of the requirements placed on all our co-op students is that at the conclusion of their work period with us, they give a presentation to a management group that explains what they did during their work cycle, what they learned, and what they liked. They’re also encouraged to critique the program and provide suggestions for improving it.
In her wrap-up, Kameron explained how much she enjoyed working with the people at Revere and feeling like she was helping them. Likewise, Avery and Hunter commented on how friendly and helpful employees were to the co-ops. They found the experience fulfilling and felt good about the way it was furthering their career. Avery felt the most important thing he learned was how to “be comfortable with being uncomfortable, staying calm when faced with challenges and keeping a clear head.”
We try very hard when we screen applicants to select those we feel will fit the company, and similar thinking is used when considering which students to extend job offers to when their co-op terms are completed. To date, the process has worked well, with approximately half of the graduate co-op students in the program, accepting offers to continue their careers with us. The result is a flow of engineers who are productive from their first day as full-time employees and who represent a great future for the company.
View an additional perspective on our co-op program.