I read an excellent blog post on Brazen Careerist called “Are Recent College Grads a Lost Generation?”
After citing the high unemployment rates for recent college grads, the author argues that little is currently being made of the excellent co-op programs that universities like Northeastern have relied on for many years. A co-op program enables students to take semesters off to work in positions related to their subject and career interests, making them excellent candidates for hire upon graduation.
Co-op programs are far from vocational. Instead, a program like Northeastern’s typically provides flexibility to pursue co-ops outside of an academic major. So in a sense you can get the best of both worlds: intellectual enrichment based on your interests coupled with the ability to gain real-world experience and start down your career path early. Given the cost of college and the uncertainty of the job market for Gen Y’s, it seems like an excellent idea for many students to consider.
Here is a partial list of colleges (in no particular order) that offer a co-op program. There are also many in Canada, which I haven’t mentioned here.