Indigenous School-to-Work Programs: Lessons From Cincinnati's Co-op Education

Indigenous School-to-Work Programs: Lessons From Cincinnati's Co-op Education

Jun 1996


Jennifer Curry Villeneuve
W. Norton Grubb
School of Education

Executive Summary:

Interest in school-to-work programs combining school-based learning and work-based learning has expanded substantially in the past few years, particularly because of the passage of the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994. However, there are relatively few examples of school-to-work programs in this country from which individuals attempting to develop new programs might learn; many of the recent experimental efforts are too new or too special to provide much guidance. This monograph describes a naturally occurring "experiment" in work-based learning that is quite long-lived and widespread: the cooperative education programs that take place in the two-year colleges of the Cincinnati area. For special historical reasons, co-op was first established in that region and has persisted. Every two-year college in the area offers co-op, and a large number of employers hire co-op students. The results provide a variety of lessons for others attempting to develop school-to-work programs.

The Structure of Cooperative Education

Co-op programs in Cincinnati vary substantially in their structure. Some alternate 10-week periods of schooling with similar periods of work, while others offer schooling in the morning followed by work in the afternoon. In some colleges, the administration of co-op is decentralized, allowing co-op coordinators to specialize in certain sectors, while in others administration is centralized. Some employers--particularly those who use co-op to "grow their own" employees, and who take a particularly educational attitude toward co-op--rotate their co-op students through different positions, and provide seminars and other activities to allow them to understand "all phases of the business." Others--particularly those who use co-op as a source of low-cost, well-trained labor--tend to place students in a single position. Each of these ways of structuring co-ops has its advantages, though there are reasons to think that decentralized administration, alternating periods of time, and rotation through several positions lead to higher-quality placements.


Villeneuve, J. C., & Grubb, W. N. (1996, June). Indigenous School-to-Work programs: Lessons from Cincinnati's co-op education. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education.