BY GREG ABAZORIUS
In 1975, a fresh-faced Wentworth civil engineering student reached out to his Milton, Mass. neighbor, developer Thomas J. Flatley, and asked for a job. Flatley set up the student–Joe Fallon–with a temporary position at his Malden Redevelopment Authority.
“Mr. Flatley took us out to various projects and introduced us to the business,” says Fallon, CE ’77. “I stayed focused on it after that point.”
Fallon would go on to apply his training to his post-graduation life, becoming one of the area’s most successful real-estate developers as the founder and CEO of the Fallon Company. His work with Flatley, meanwhile, marks the first days of Wentworth’s hallmark cooperative learning program.
At 40 years old, co-op at Wentworth is a finely tuned engine, a robust networking and on-the-job training tool that provides students with a firsthand connection to the working world. The program is the largest of its kind in New England, with more than 1,400 students completing a co-op each year.
“Wentworth students are highly sought after from employers for two very important reasons— they are graduating from a STEM school with two full-time employment experiences in their field of study on their résumé,” says Robbin Beauchamp, director of Cooperative Education and Career Services.
The proof is in the numbers—99 percent of graduates from the Class of 2014 who completed a Wentworth survey found employment or entered graduate school within six months of graduation. Forty-two percent were hired by one of their co-op employers, and the average starting salary was $56,764. Seventy-seven percent of the class completed the survey.
“A number of our contractors and subcontractors use co-op students and have them as a part of their summer programs,” Fallon says. “Many of the co-op students stay with the subcontractors.
It’s truly a tool that should be used, and everyone should make it a part of their program as they go through their education.”
Irene McSweeney is certainly paying her experience forward. As a Wentworth corporator and alumna (BCS ’83, CEC ’85, CE ’88), she spent her co-ops with Boston engineering firm Allen and Demurjian. She is now the director of construction for the Boston Water and Sewer Commission. Since her start with the commission in 1991, the construction division has employed
between six and nine co-ops per year.
“If you think about that, we’ve directly impacted 175 students through the co-op program,” she says.
Unlike other schools, Wentworth requires students to complete two different co-op cycles in their tenures, with an option for a third. Each co-op experience is one semester long and paid by the employer.
PREPERATION AND PASSION
Ryan Hutchins, CMT ’96, CMC ’98, is one of many Wentworth alumni to land full-time employment at the same company where he completed his co-op. After two co-op stints at Gilbane Building Co., Hutchins was hired as a project manager. He has since worked his way up to senior vice president and regional manager, and has been named to “40 Under 40” lists by both the Boston Business Journal and Building Design + Construction magazine.
At the “Celebrating 40 Years of Co-op” event on campus November 5, Hutchins talked about finding his career through the cooperative program, noting that Gilbane looks closely at Wentworth co-op students when hiring for full-time positions. “When Wentworth students come to work at Gilbane, they come to the job prepared to go to work,” he says.
Olivia Hegner, BSA ’14, MArc ’15, spent one of her co-ops at architecture firm Cambridge Seven Associates. The company immediately hired her post-graduation as an architectural designer.
“The opportunity to go on co-op was very rewarding,” she says. “We were able to take what we learned in the classroom and apply it to the real world. After my co-op experience, I looked at school differently and felt a noticeable increase in my passion for design.”
Locally Raytheon, Hasbro, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority are among the top employers of Wentworth students. But co-op experiences are not limited to New England—students have recently worked in California, Florida, Texas, and Washington, D.C., as well as internationally in Australia, France, China, Scotland, and Japan.
“Co-op is truly a global phenomenon that provides students unparalleled career opportunities,” says Beauchamp, “and one that Wentworth has been a leader in for 40 years.”