Garden Spot High School: Onboarding New Employers as Cooperative Education Sites

Posted on Categories Business, Community, Workforce Engagement, Cooperative Education

At a Glance

This Best Practice highlights how the Career Pathways Coordinator at Garden Spot High School developed a detailed approach to onboarding local businesses to support both the Cooperative Education and Internship program. The profile describes how one person with a vision and determination developed a thriving and effective work-based learning program for students.


After successfully starting the Cooperative Education Program the year prior, Career Pathways Coordinator, Jill Hackman, took over the internship program at Garden Spot High School. She knew the key to providing effective work-based learning opportunities for her students was strong business/employer relationships. Determined to build the program, she set out to visit businesses and make connections with employers with the goal of having them agree to become Cooperative Education work sites. In that first year, she drove three hundred miles within and just beyond her school district boundaries meeting employers and building critical relationships.

That first year laid the groundwork and foundation for Garden Spot’s successful Cooperative Education and Internship program. Having established the program, Jill no longer needs to drive to meet employers and make those new connections. With a well-developed program with many student successes, she was able to capitalize on those successes by advertising through social media and the program’s website. Cold calling employers is now the strategy that Jill uses to recruit new employees. She shares the program successes and information about participating employers to convince new businesses to join.

Jill shared that there are challenges when using the cold call approach as sometimes it is hard to find the right person at the business to take her call. If she does not get the right person, a decision-maker,  her calls can be potentially ignored. To overcome this challenge, she attends many community events, for example, the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce or the Northern Lancaster County Chamber events. The business decision-makers usually attend these events and introductions have frequently led to Cooperative Education or Internship opportunities.


Through Jill Hackman’s hard work and determination, the students at Garden Spot High School now have authentic, real-world experiences that they cannot encounter in the classroom. Participating businesses benefit from having an extra set of hands to support their work and also an opportunity to work with potential future employees. Sharing the successes of the program through social media and the program’s website has generated interest throughout the entire community and received many positive comments and appreciation from Cooperative Education and Internship students and families.

Here are Jill Hackman’s guidelines for effectively onboarding new employers as worksite partners:

    1. If not currently certified as a cooperative education instructor, seek certification from one the three universities, Temple University, Penn State University or Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The certification prepares you to run a co-op and/or internship program properly and ensure the safety of the students who are participating in the programs.
    2. Join PCEA (Pennsylvania Cooperative Education Association) so you have the support from a community of co-op coordinators from around the state.
    3. Create a website that includes an overview of your work programs and has a page specifically for employers.
    4. Create a packet of information for new employers to advertise your programs. Include your business card.
    5. Drive to local businesses to introduce yourself and share your programs and how these programs could benefit the business, the school, and the students.
    6. Cold call local businesses (same as number 3 – 5).
    7. Ask for a tour of the business to learn more about their company and how it functions. This will help you connect learners to the right businesses based on their career goals. Complete a pre-site visit while on the tour.
    8. Interview students who are interested in your work programs and learn their career goals. Connect them with employers that match their career goals.
    9. Take learners on tours of businesses. While on the tour, complete a pre-site visit to ensure the safety of the business.
    10. Place students in jobs with your new connections. Take photos of students at their jobs and advertise on your website and through social media.
    11. Soon, through word of mouth and your social media channels, you will begin to have businesses reach out to you.
    12. Continue to repeat this process for new businesses.


Garden Spot High School

Jill Hackman, Career Pathways Coordinator