2024 Co-op Days attracts 2,000+ students eager for professional opportunities

The Office of Professional Practice hosted their annual Co-op Days. This multi-day event began January 29, 2024 and brought employers and students together in multiple formats over the next three days. Co-op Days encompasses various activities with a specific focus on the Co-op Career Fair, an event tailored specifically to students looking for co-op opportunities. Networking Night, hosted by Professional Practice Ambassadors (PPA), along with the Co-op Career Fair and Interview Day, attracted over 2,000 unique students from 115 majors representing seven different colleges.

Students engaged with industry representatives through PPA Networking Night, the Co-op Career Fair, and Interview Day.

The Co-op program at Purdue University has been the premier professional work experience program at the university for over 60 years. Students participating in the program can earn an academic certificate upon graduation and enhance their academic knowledge with practical skills through progressively challenging work experiences with industry partners.

Each year, the Office of Professional Practice welcomes both returning and new companies to participate in this event. Among the attending industry representatives, Theresa Florek, an HR generalist for Howmet Aerospace, describes her experience returning to the fair this year. “The Purdue Co-Op Career Fair has always been a great experience for us at Howmet Aerospace, and as expected, the 2024 event did not disappoint. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know the students a little before we had a more in-depth conversation during the interview process. We were impressed by how prepared the students were on how to 'sell' themselves, and most students came prepared with knowledge of our company as well. Purdue’s hospitality has been unmatched, but when we think of Purdue, we are not surprised by that. We look forward to this event each year,” Florek said.

Similarly, Nate Huntsberger, Process Engineering Manager at Silfex, Inc., reflects on the success of the career fair, highlighting its positive impact not only for recruiters but also for the students they engage with.

“Attending career fairs is a tremendous opportunity for students to practice. It is a skill to be able to, within a few moments, convince an employer that you’re worth interviewing. Students who have never attended a career fair or similar event are going to have a harder time competing against their peers because of that opportunity to practice,” Huntsberger explains. “Overall, we were very impressed. My recruiter who has over 10 years of experience attending events commented that this recent Purdue event was the best she’s attended.”

On average, five out of ten first-year engineering (FYE) students get at least one interview from participating in these events. Freshman FYE student Jasmine Asumang, who attended the PPA Networking Night, received four interview opportunities after participating in the Co-op Career Fair. This networking event, before the career fair, provides students the opportunity to stand out and connect with the industry in an informal setting.  Utilizing this opportunity to connect with employers beforehand allowed Asumang to have an easier transition coming to the fair.

“[The experience] was nerve-racking at first, but I went to the networking night, which helped me get comfortable talking to professionals and employers. It made the difference coming here today,” Asumang explains. “I remember last year for Industrial Roundtable, I was so nervous and had no experience, but doing the [PPA] Networking Night and then being able to talk to them again and show my resume really helped.”

Students spent time researching companies and preparing their elevator pitches to secure potential career opportunities.

Co-op Days events are open to all majors and students of any year. Many students return annually to refine and improve their elevator pitches to recruiters in hopes of receiving an interview. Electrical Engineering senior Nicole Wang, having attended similar events in the past, reflects on the significance these events have for students as they search for career opportunities, drawing from her experience securing an internship.

“I think it's about interpersonal connections; you are more than just a piece of paper,” Wang said. “You get to make connections with the employer and maybe stick out to them by showing your personality, which is a lot more important than skills sometimes.”

All in all, by offering various activities, fostering networking opportunities, and providing essential services, the Office of Professional Practice Co-op Days plays a vital role in empowering students and preparing them for the next giant leap in their professional careers.


Writer: Margaret Mowrer | Photos: Thomas McClure