OHS alumnus Jacob Johnson gets hands-on experience in Cooperative Education Program

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Opp High School alumnus Jacob Johnson is in his third term in the University of Alabama’s Cooperative Education Program.

In the Cooperative Education Program, more than 280 students alternate periods of full-time study with periods of full-time employment. This program offers work related to the academic major or career interests of each student.

“At the university, they send somebody in your classes to talk to you about the program,” Johnson said. “They told us that we would get a lot of hands-on experience with the program, which I can definitely say is true because this is my last one.”

Johnson had to go through several interviews with six companies until he found a match with BL Harbert International, a construction company based in Birmingham, Ala.

“We had to interview with three companies at first,” Johnson said. “But when you went to sign up, there were more spots that were open. So, by the end of the process I had interviewed with six companies, all in one day.”

While in school, students carry regular course schedules. While on co-op, they work with professionals in their fields who supervise their training and work. At work, co-op students earn competitive salaries and may receive benefit packages in addition to valuable job experience. Participants maintain their full-time status while at work and have priority registration status each semester through graduation.

“One semester I’ll take a full load of classes and then the next semester I’ll do my co-op,” Johnson said. “You are there basically from when classes start until when class would be finished and all you do is work. We get to learn more of the hands-on things by doing this. It isn’t like an internship where I have to volunteer my hours either, I actually get paid to do this.”

Johnson said that with each co-op semester that he has participated in, they have all been geared toward a different aspect of his overall major.

“My first co-op was geared towards field superintendent-type stuff,” Johnson said. “My second co-op I was in Birmingham and it was more geared towards cost estimating. Now, I am here in Tallahassee and it is geared towards project management. They want you to see all of the different areas of the career field.”

The one downside to the co-op program is that it tacks on a year before a student can graduate, but Johnson said that it means more work experience.

“After graduation, I can receive an offer right then and not have to wait around,” Johnson said. “With the company that I am working with right now, they have a 90 to 95 percent hire rate for people that have worked with them during the co-op program. Yeah, I’ll have to wait one more year, but I have more experience and will have a better chance of getting hired when I graduate.”

Johnson is going into his senior year at the University of Alabama. He will earn his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.

He is the son of Wendy and Clark Johnson.