Maximize your workforce by employing UC co-op students

Kroger's experience shows value of co-ops for employers, students

There’s a lot of talk about labor shortages these days. Businesses that think strategically beyond standard hiring practices are winning in the workforce competition by employing high-impact talent from an unlikely place: college classrooms.

Since 1906 when it invented cooperative education, the University of Cincinnati has combined coursework with practical work experience. Through internships and co-ops with Fortune 500 companies such as Kroger, Fifth Third and American Financial Group, UC fosters a win-win for students and employers.

When workforce supplies are low and the workload is high, students can help businesses stay on track. In turn, students develop marketable skills and make connections with prospective employers. 

The win for employers

Dan Whitacre, senior director of Kroger Labs, understands the value of student employment. He points toward the entryway of the 1819 Innovation Hub suite where he works.

“If you look at the poster on the wall, you will see a picture of 25 UC students who graduated from the Kroger Lab,” he said. “They were here as interns and co-ops and then became Kroger employees. Access to co-op talent has changed the way we do things. These students take what they have learned about disruptive technology and populate those ideas in other parts of the organization.” 

One of the UC co-op students pictured is Joe Kroger. No relation to the supermarket giant, he is part of the digitally native generation of co-op students at UC, driven to put education and experiences into action. Joe Kroger expects to graduate in spring 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and is already taking courses toward his Master of Business Administration.

“The co-op program has allowed me to achieve a full-time job offer before I even graduate college,” he said. 

The win for students

The Kroger Co. challenged Joe Kroger to devise cost savings for elevator lift maintenance.

“When you think of Kroger, you definitely don’t think of elevators, and I was even more shocked to find that we spend well over $5 million on the lift equipment maintenance alone every year,” he said. “When the project is complete, I will be able to provide cost savings along with an optimization of our vendor relationships as we lock in the best rates for Kroger.”

As a result of his successful elevator analysis, Joe Kroger was asked to return this fall, when he worked in the cost management department, leveraging data analytics to reduce overhead spending and keep prices as low as possible for consumers.

According to the Kroger database, there are 791 UC alumni currently employed at Kroger or any of its subsidiaries. Joe Kroger will soon join their ranks. He credited his experiences at UC with preparing him for success at a major blue-chip company.

“Through leveraging my connections made with career coaches as well as 1819 professionals, I was able to effectively land an interview with my dream position at Kroger,” he said.

Learn more about the advantages of hiring UC co-op students.

Connect with the UC co-op office

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