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UC Answers: Why should I consider a virtual co-op?

Efforts to stop spread of coronavirus has transformed workplace norms

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/GfKgUxdUlIY?rel=0


For more than a century, University of Cincinnati students have earned money and gained experience through the university’s cooperative education programs while working toward earning degrees.

“Even before the pandemic, we recognized and anticipated that work needs would increasingly rely on virtual or hybrid semi-virtual environments,” said Gisela Escoe, dean of UC’s Division of Experience-based Learning and Career Education. “That foresight is allowing us to quickly expand capacity on a foundation that already existed.”

Virtual co-op made it possible for many UC students to have co-op experiences despite strict social distancing requirements. But now, as states work to reopen their economies, many employers continue to rely upon the virtual workplace to keep their employees safe, happy and productive. 

Q1: What is a virtual co-op?

ESCOE: In most ways, a virtual co-op is identical to its non-virtual counterpart — the student gains practical experience by working in a paid role related to their field of study. The only difference is that instead of physically going to work, the experience takes place online. Many companies are seeking remote co-ops and many families feel more comfortable with this option.

Q2: What are the advantages of a virtual co-op experience?

ESCOE: We are finding that in many industries, employers are continuing with their employees working virtually. In the short-term, the risk of students contracting and spreading the coronavirus are minimized by the elimination of close physical proximity to co-workers, customers, vendors and so forth. But I don’t think the advantages begin and end with the pandemic. More and more, we’re seeing employers open their eyes to the advantages of remote work.  

Q3: What are the advantages of working remotely, from an employer standpoint? 

ESCOE: I don’t think employers need to look any further than their bottom lines. Transitioning to a virtual work culture has several advantages from a cost-savings standpoint. Companies can reduce the size of the physical workplace to suit their needs, or even eliminate it.. Obviously, using virtual meetings can lead to reduced travel costs. But being able to offer remote positions gives employers a big advantage from a recruitment standpoint, as well. 

Q4: How do virtual workspaces help with recruiting? 

ESCOE: One of the biggest challenges facing employers in the recruiting process is geography, but virtual workspaces are a great way to work around it. Employers don’t need to convince their favorite candidates for a position to pack up and move from one city to another — or pay for the cost of relocation, for that matter. A virtual work culture may be viewed as a perk by skilled job seekers as well. 

Q5: What are the advantages of virtual co-op from a student perspective? 

ESCOE: Just as with employers, geography is no longer a barrier to entry for students in virtual co-op positions. For students who don’t wish to relocate, virtual co-op makes working for far-away companies possible. It also greatly increases the number of potential co-op employers we can form relationships with, which we see as a big advantage to our students and the university as a whole.

Featured image: John Schnobrich/Unsplash

Consider a Virtual Co-op

UC is leading the way in developing innovative ways students can continue to gain professional skills and enhance their resume even during this unprecedented health crisis and the resulting economic downturn. Learn more about your co-op options at UC.