Using co-ops to find potential future hires

February 1, 2017 -  By

Participating in co-op programs helps one company get ahead of the workforce.

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Cooperative education programs—also known as co-ops—can be a great way for students to gain real-life working experience while also receiving their education. And for landscape business owners, who often cite “finding employees” as one of their biggest challenges, a co-op can be a great way to boost your labor force and find potential future hires.

Snow & Sons Tree & Landscaping in Greenfield, Mass., has been working with co-op students for a decade and has found the partnership to be mutually beneficial. Over the last 10 years the company has hired about 15 students for summer employment through co-op programs with two high school horticulture programs.

Abby Gilbert, gardening division manager with Snow & Sons, says a co-op program provides students with the opportunity to see what would be expected of them if they went to work for a company in the landscape industry. Snow & Sons works with horticulture students who are planning to go into landscaping after graduation.

Not surprisingly, some find it wasn’t what they had expected. Over the years, several co-op students have decided landscaping wasn’t the right career path for them, Gilbert says. But the company doesn’t consider that to be a failure. It’s better for students to learn what they really want to do before they’ve graduated, she says.

The benefits for Snow & Sons include the opportunity to evaluate potential future hires. The company has offered many co-op students jobs at graduation. Six students have ultimately come to work for the company full-time. Others have gone on to start their own businesses. Gilbert says that either way, it’s rewarding to be part of these students’ journeys into the industry.

It’s also been beneficial to have eager-to-work students join the ranks. Gilbert says they’re often excited about the opportunity and are hardworking and committed. Students work in lawn maintenance, gardening or on whichever crew fits with their interests.

“We usually start the students out with some training and get them acclimated to what they’ll be doing on the crew they’re assigned,” Gilbert says. “We have always found the students to be ready to work and excited about trying out some of the things they’ve been learning about in school. They attend our meetings, get hands-on experience in the field and learn how to run equipment. It’s truly the full experience.”

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 12.58.57 PMGilbert says that the biggest commitment to the program is time—primarily training the students. In addition, several employees from the company also sit on the two schools’ co-op advisory boards, which meet several times a year.

Overall, the company believes the time it puts into the program is time well invested. Not only is it rewarding to be a part of these students’ futures, but Snow & Sons has benefitted from good workers over the years and groomed a few excellent future employees. When so many employers say it’s hard to find good employees, this program connects the dots.

“How many students can say they have a job waiting for them when they graduate?” Gilbert says. “And how many employers can say they found a great hire that they already know is a good fit with the company? It’s an experience that is beneficial for everyone.”

Photo: SNOW & SONS TREE & LANDSCAPING

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