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This client submitted an official report detailing the approaches different community colleges take toward Cooperative Education courses.

Oregon Coast Community College

Thursday, October 28, 2022; 9–11 AM;

Larry Boles, (Faculty) Director of OCCU’s AAS degree program in Aquarium Science

Overview of CWE Programming

The AQS program includes required two-credit practicums in the second and third terms of the first year, and a term-long, 12-credit internship experience in the final term of the second year. Practicums are taken concurrently with 14–16 credits of other coursework and require 60 hours of work at a site off-campus under the mentorship and supervision of an industry professional. What OCCC’s AQS program calls “practicum” is, in fact, seemingly identical to an LCC Co-op Ed course. Students work at work sites under the supervision of an industry partner without a College instructor present. What OCCC’s AQS program calls “internship” is a 12-credit course that requires full-time work over the course of a term, and is often fulfilled through incumbent work. Larry mentioned that certificate students don’t need and often don’t complete the internship component because of its cost and the fact that they’re already working. Internships are more valuable for students with no or less previous industry experience or credentials. 


The AAS in Early Childhood Education requires two rounds of practicums (ECE 133/134) and seminars (ECE 130A/B) in the first and second years. Like many “practicums” in ECE programs around the state, including Lane’s, this is an observational experience with the ECE program faculty present in an ECE work site.


In addition, the AAS in Nursing program requires a significant clinical experience at the level required by accreditation standards. Other offered Allied Health programs also follow accreditation standards in terms of required clinical hours.


Per the OCCC online catalog, for Business Administration students, there is a BA 280A - Business Experience Cooperative Education course for 1–12 credits with a required 1-credit, concurrent seminar course (BA 280B). According to OCCC faculty member Dr. Alberto Flores, this will be a part of the proposed Business Management AAS degree program, if approved.


Per the OCCC online catalog, ED 290 - Education Practicum is offered for Elementary Education transfer students. This requires a minimum of 60 volunteer / work hours and a concurrent seminar to reflect on the experience, connecting learned theory to observed and performed practice. 


OCCC provides little to no support for non-credit internships. There is no system by which local employers can post jobs. There is a physical job board in the student services area of the main campus building.

Key Quotes & Takeaways from Interview
Indelible Value and Importance of CWE

“[I don’t think we would ever consider getting rid of or replacing the practicum courses because] the skills students pick up in the practicum component are vital to the reputation of the program.” “I cannot imagine trying to do this program without practicums.” —Larry Boles 


(It is important to clarify that what Larry’s program refers to as a “practicum” is indeed a traditional CWE experience that, for whatever reason, does not use the 280 numbering. It is, however, supervised, off-site, work-based learning for academic credit where the student is operating independently under the supervision of a designated site supervisor and not under the regular supervision of a college representative. This is different from “practicums” often used in Early Childhood / Elementary Education programs.)

CWE As a Barrier to Credential (Certificate) Completion

The AAS in AQS program requires a 12-credit, full-time internship course in the last term of the program. “In many years, 75-80% of students aren’t doing ‘internships,’ they’re going straight into a job. They still need to complete the course and pay for the (12!) credits to earn the degree. We’ve had students who’ve done really well in the program not finish the program / degree because they’ve said, ‘I’ve got a job. That’s what I wanted.’ This is particularly problematic in the 1-year certificate track. For students with no other academic credentials aside from a high school diploma, completing the internship, and thus, the degree, is more of a priority.” —Larry Boles

What CWE Employers are Looking For / Evaluating

“No potential employer has ever asked me what a student’s / prospective intern’s GPA is. They ask, ‘Do they work hard?’ ‘Do they show up (on time)?’ ‘Do they work well with others?’ If you’ve been a straight-A student, congratulations. No one cares anymore. If you’re in my office arguing for two points on an exam, I’m just going to give it to you because I don’t care. But if you’re arguing for those points, you’re missing the whole point of the program.” 

Workload / Compensation

“Finding someone to coordinate practicum / internship programs is non-trivial. And even if there are partnerships that exist, the maintenance of those partnerships is non-trivial.” —Larry Boles


“They [administration] wanted to define the workload for this CTE faculty position the same way they define a (faculty) position for someone who teaches general biology. I have slowly, but, I think, successfully made the case to redefine the position to be more like what a Nursing faculty program coordinator is—things like external mentorship relationships and off-site partnerships that have to be negotiated or maintained, things that, frankly, neither my faculty nor I are getting credit for. The last person in my job was here for 4.5–5 years and left 100% because of the frustrations around those things. They felt like it wasn’t a 40-hour/week job. I think this is a CTE problem, not just an AQS problem. We lost a welding instructor. The salaries in the industry are so much greater than what you can get teaching.” —Larry Boles (See: CGCC)


Pay for AQS faculty practicum / internship is less for AQS faculty in contract language. This makes sense for a 12-credit internship, but not for a (two-credit) practicum. 

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