UPS Co-op Program Delivers Opportunities

by Laura Merrill, Manager of Cooperative Education

CIS, finance, and accounting students, take note: If you want to work for UPS, getting a co-op is a good place to start. There are approximately 60 co-ops at UPS at any given time. According to Warren Zoeller, professional recruiter for UPS, computer science majors comprise the majority of UPS’s co-ops. Right now, there are more than 20 co-op students working as programmers providing tech support for UPS’s Louisville operations.

There also are co-op opportunities in finance and accounting and for MBAs. Finance co-ops usually work in process improvement or as business analysts. Occasionally there are general business co-ops.

Most UPS co-ops are full-time because the learning curve is long and the development team might consist of as many as 40 or more people ­working on long-range projects. By working full-time, students are more likely to have the opportunity to contribute to these projects.

Rather than move co-ops from department to department, UPS dedicates them to a specific area like a regular entry-level employee.

The UPS co-op program benefits UPS and students alike.

Says Zoeller, “UPS benefits because the co-op students help UPS get a lot of real work done. UPS doesn’t just make work for the co-ops. Also, UPS gets to work with potential full-time candidates for one year—a sort of ‘try before you buy’ situation. This is helpful since the majority of professional positions at UPS are filled with people who have co-oped with the company.”

Students fare pretty well too: They get real work experience and they get to prove themselves and compete for full-time placement. In addition to regular pay, students also are paid for company holidays and two personal days per semester. Students can even participate in the 401k and stock discount purchase programs via payroll deduction. These benefits are especially helpful for students who move on to full-time placement.

One person who stands out in the UPS co-op program is Chris Williamson (’04), who did his co-op January 2004 through July 2005. “He worked for a little over a year and did a great job. Although UPS had had limited professional hiring during the past six months, Chris successfully interviewed and was hired as a programmer in International Trade Logistics in July,” according to Zoeller.

How did he do it? Williamson succeeded because he demonstrated initiative and hard work by learning JAVA and rapidly developing his technical skills on his own time. He was able to contribute to a large, high-priority project and establish a reputation as a good communicator.

Williamson was pleased with his UPS co-op experience. “They don’t baby sit you,” he said. “They give you tasks and you learn as you go. You have resources you can turn to, but you do the same stuff regular employees do. There is a lot of accountability for each project.”

This was definitely not a clerical job. “I worked on coding a testing tool and then did performance tests on the applications and vendor software. I also helped write one of the main applications for some international shipping software under a very tight deadline.”

Williamson’s UPS experience underscores one of the best aspects of being a co-op: According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, in 2004, more than half of the co-ops/interns converted to full-time employees upon graduation.

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