"Co-op" education refers to programs, usually in engineering schools, whereby students alternate 6 months employment with 6 months school. The logistics and schedule vary but the principle is the same: serious, full time temporary work at an employer that is "part of the program" insofar as they take on one coop student after another in well structured training programs. Historically these programs have
- provided students with opportunity to fund their education through career-related work
- provided students with opportunity to try out career options
- provided students and companies opportunity to assess whether they are a match for future employment.
In some ways co-ops were the original paid internships. But what sets these programs apart is the degree to which the work experience is integrated into the curriculum both in terms of there being space to work full time for extended periods and for the ongoing relationship between school and employers.
A few examples: