UA co-op students made more than $5 million last year


Adrienne Burch

With the job market in the United States steadily declining, any internship or job experience that undergraduates can add to their resume while they are in school is beneficial.

Engineering students at The University of Alabama have the opportunity to participate in the Cooperative Education and Professional Practice Program, gaining real world job experience while they are still enrolled at the Capstone.

“Co-op programs are resume-enhancing experiences,” Roy Gregg, director of cooperative education and professional practice programs, said. “Students with significant work experience have an advantage at graduation.”

In addition to work experience, co-op students are paid and receive health benefits. Last year, UA co-op students earned over $5 million, averaging $17 per hour.

One of the most popular of the engineering co-op options at the University is the Mercedes-Benz Graduate Fellowship.

The University of Alabama’s partnership with Mercedes began with two students in 1995, and it has now grown to as many as 45 engineering and business students. Students apply as freshmen and begin work their sophomore year.

“Mercedes is popular because of its name and location,” Gregg said. “It also has a first-class world reputation.”

Hunter Delano, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, completed his third term at Mercedes this past summer.

“Working at Mercedes has shown me how engineering ties to manufacturing,” Delano said. “The industry connections that I made are invaluable.”

Delano worked in three different departments at Mercedes: assembly shop, body shop and paint shop. In each shop, one engineer was assigned as a mentor to teach him different tasks.

His daily activities included attending meetings, tracking process efficiencies and working with his mentor.

Craig Landru, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, has two semesters left in the Mercedes program, which he chose because of his fascination in the automotive industry from growing up in Detroit.

Day-to-day activities for co-op students at Mercedes are different for everyone, Landru said. He worked in the supplier quality department at the automotive plant, doing anything from audits at a desk to going online at a supplier and checking for quality. He hopes to pursue a job at Mercedes upon completion of the program.

“The people are great, and it seems like the benefits they provide to employees is a good deal,” Landru said. “I could see myself working there in the future if the opportunity presents itself.”

Landru said that he recommends any student participate in a co-op.

“The experience that you receive toward your degree is invaluable and really shows companies you’re making an extra effort to further your career,” he said.