At a Glance
This Best Practice highlights how a Cooperative Education coordinator utilizes digital signature software to increase the ease and efficiency of collecting all paperwork associated with Cooperative Education work site placements.
Initially this practice was born out of the shift to a virtual environment at the CTC of Lackawanna County as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Cooperative Education Coordinator, Matt Zampetti found it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to collect Cooperative Education (COOP) Training Plans and Agreements, as well as employer evaluations, as visits to work sites where his students were employed was prohibited under pandemic restrictions.
Prior to the pandemic, he used paper forms for the collection of training plans and agreements and monthly evaluations. This was a very ineffective practice, with it sometimes taking over a week to get all the proper paperwork in place, delaying start times and resulting in frustrated employers.
Mr. Zampetti decided to take a digital approach using the JOTFORM software for the collection of all training plans and agreements. The software allows him to send the form to each stakeholder and have it completed, signed, and submitted digitally. This changed the collection time from days and weeks to having training plans and agreements completed in an afternoon. This includes signatures from students, parents, employers, sending school administrators, counselors, and the administration at the CTC. In addition, JOTFORM has allowed him to create training plans for specific CIP codes, which has allowed me to input the tasks from the Program of Study (POS) task list directly onto the form, the employer need only select the task rather than referencing the POS task list. It is all pre-loaded, the employer just needs to click the appropriate boxes. Also, by putting the monthly evaluation forms at the fingertips of the employer, as it can be completed on cell phones now, it has made the process of collecting these forms exponentially easier for all stakeholders.
Implementing this change was not without its difficulties. It took a lot of work upfront to create all the specific training plans and to create the training agreement. After the documents were in place, Mr. Zampetti sent some practice runs to people in his CTC to try and complete them. There was a lot of trial and error when beginning this process initially. Once he was able to get the people in the school able to use the technology, he then needed to utilize it with employers. This was not an easy task either, as not all employers were comfortable with the technology. However, into the third year with the platform, it has been embraced for its ease and how quickly paperwork can be turned around now.
The practice was funded with COVID relief funds that were awarded federally for technology that was used for virtual teaching initially, but the software is inexpensive, so the CTC continued paying for it out of the COOP program budget. The practice will most certainly continue at CTCLC, and I would recommend it to any COOP program. The most notable effect was how quickly the school could now get students to work rather than having to wait for all the paperwork to be in place. Employers would often get frustrated waiting for students to complete paperwork, which was not always the fault of the students.
With regard to the monthly evaluation, the use of software has improved the rate and amount of student feedback. A major component of a COOP program is the reflection piece for students, but they were unable to do that without dependable, steady, and constant feedback. This software has improved that, allowing students to reflect on their performance with more feedback from the employer now. Mr. Zampetti recommends that although there is some work upfront, it is well worth the effort to improve your COOP program.
The Career and Technology Center of Lackawanna County
Matthew Zampetti, Cooperative Education Coordinator