Challenging, exciting, eye-opening – Students of AUC’s first CO-OP program share their experience
“Student learning should never be confined to the walls of a classroom. The CO-OP program is designed to give our students a headstart in today’s highly competitive job market.” - Ahmed Abdel-Meguid, associate professor of accounting and Founding CO-OP Faculty Mentor.
As part of the school’s efforts in offering experiential learning opportunities and in collaboration with the Career Center, AUC School of Business launched its inaugural Cooperative Education Course (CO-OP) cohort during Summer 2021 which ran from August 1, 2021 till January 31, 2022. The program features an elective course [BUSC 4000 - Experiential Learning: CO-OP]. Through registering for this course, School of Business students are directly engaged, on a paid full-time basis for six months, with external entities with no concurrent course enrollment.
Host entities include but are not limited to multinational corporations, startups, financial institutions, governmental entities, professional services firms, think tanks, local and international economic and monetary bodies, and non-profit organizations. Students are assigned specific tasks relevant to their fields of study during this engagement, providing realistic on-the-job training. They are co-evaluated on key learning objectives by an academic faculty from the school, and a representative of the external entity counterpart, ultimately yielding a pass/fail grade.
After completing their CO-OP assignments, students resume their academic studies for at least one semester at AUC. Such a model is conducive to students acquiring new academic knowledge through a six months ‘practical lens’ as well as sharing their experiences with other students in their courses.
“This is a pilot phase, through which we are building a solid foundation to expand the program within the School of Business and roll it out to other schools in the university,” explained Soha Hassan, former assistant director, Experiential Learning at AUC’s Career Center.
The program allows students to experience the life of a working professional before graduation. “To be able to gain practical knowledge and experience real work-life while I am still a student is such an exhilarating journey for me,” highlighted Basant El Naggar, an accounting student who worked in Risk Services at PwC.
“Being part of the CO-OP program is a great way for you to test-drive your career and fields of interest; you’ll definitely be getting a taste of life post-graduation, and I think this is the perfect way for students to set foot in the workplace,” elaborated Alia Yassin, a business student who joined the Brand Management department at P&G for her CO-OP.
The program is not only a chance for students to test out their dream jobs but also to find out whether or not this job actually suits them. “Basically it is an insight into your future, as it helps you determine areas that might be of interest for you,” explained Farida El Deeb, an economics student who worked at the Macroprudential Sector at the Central Bank of Egypt. “Working at the Central Bank of Egypt has helped me confirm my decision in working in the public banking sector and my passion towards this field has grown stronger,” she continued. Similarly, Mustafa El-Shahidi, a student double majoring in accounting and business who worked in Risk Services at PwC, explained how the experience made him reconsider working within the finance and accounting fields after he had decided to pursue a career in sports prior to entering the program.
On the other hand, Mennatallah Zayed, an economics student who joined The Egyptian Center for Economic Studies (ECES) as a CO-OP Economic Analyst explained how grateful she is for this program because it made her realize that a career in economic research may not be the best path for her. “This was a huge chance for me to try working in the risk assurance team and test whether I would like to continue working in it or not,” echoed Farah El Shanawany, a business student who worked in Risk Services at PwC.
On a similar note, students were able to venture outside their specializations and explore broader business opportunities. Economics student Laila El Helw was able to work in Tax Advisory at PwC, something that she found a little different from her field of study. “I thought my career was limited to economics, but as a School of Business student, I took general electives that allowed me to apply for PwC,” said Laila. “The school really prepared me for this job by laying out the foundation that I had the opportunity to build upon throughout my experience,” elaborated Youssef Ibrahim, a student double majoring in accounting and business who worked in Deals at PwC. “In my job, I was able to implement what I learned in class in real-life work situations, which was a huge milestone for me,” confirmed Basant.
The CO-OP experience was extremely engaging to the extent that students were provided opportunities to attend high-level meetings where important business decisions are being made. “I did not expect that level of accountability and responsibility for my work,” emphasized Youssef.
Students were also thrilled to attend meetings with both local and international clients. “In my company, I worked with clients abroad, which allowed me to gain a diverse work experience,” said Omar Ali, a business student who worked in Strategy and Business Planning at Robusta Studio.
This kind of exposure allowed the students to further expand their professional network even outside their host company. For Farida, for instance, building connections in the field was one of the most important takeaways of CO-OP. “The program helped me establish contacts in the workplace for networking opportunities and references for future employment,” she highlighted.
To date, the CO-OP program has featured the following partners: The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), CID Consulting, DHL, The Egyptian Center for Economic Studies (ECES), The Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, P&G, PwC, Robusta, SWVL, and Transcendium (Cilantro). Furthermore, customized developmental and networking events were held for CO-OP students with internal and external partners, including the AUC Center for Learning and Teaching – CLT (on “Design Thinking”) and The Egyptian Professionals Network – EPN and Consoleya (on “What makes a good business leader?”). The second cohort will run from February 1 till July 31, 2022.
Want to enhance your career readiness and build a professional network? Join the CO-OP program’s third cohort. Announcement of CO-OP employers, jobs, and the application process will begin in March 2022. Learn more about the program here.