NMSU students gain work experience through cooperative education

LAS CRUCES – Educational experiences transcend the classroom at New Mexico State University. Students have many opportunities to expand their academic knowledge with programs such as cooperative education, internships, and education abroad.

For Paulina Galarza, participating in the first cohort of the Lockheed Martin cooperative program allowed her to experience an engineering work environment while pursuing her bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. Working in industry and with colleagues before graduation gives students valuable insight into life as a full-time employee.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s very important to ask questions,” Galarza said. “I always thought questions would end after college, but I was wrong. Asking questions continues to help my growing career. In addition, I learned the importance of working with others and asking for help with tasks.

After Galarza’s co-op position ended and graduated in 2020, Lockheed Martin hired her as a systems engineer under the Double Eagle II program.

Galarza was one of 10 students in the 2019 pilot cohort, which required students to pass a series of security clearances before a cooperative job offer. The process takes around 12 to 18 months before students can start working. The second cohort consists of 16 students and the third cohort is currently being selected.

“Giving students the opportunity to test work in this particular work environment allows them to put into practice what they have learned in the classroom and gain valuable experience working in a diverse multigenerational environment,” said Greta Burger , responsible for the systems engineering program. at Lockheed Martin. “In many cases, this type of opportunity can ultimately lead to a full-time position with the company.”

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Burger said the collaboration with NMSU helps both organizations. The cooperative program allows Lockheed Martin to reduce the extended wait period for the required clearance level and maximize cost savings.

“NMSU provides a great STEM pipeline for new hires in the Las Cruces area,” Burger said. “By working with NMSU to develop the co-op program, we are addressing a need for technical careers in southern New Mexico and providing a pipeline of prepared and career-ready employees for our programs.”

“The academic knowledge gained by attending NMSU is a very important part of preparing for a long-term career; however, in today’s workforce, employers are looking for graduates who have also participated in experiential learning opportunities such as co-ops, internships, study abroad, and employment. volunteering, as these activities develop the ever-important and sought-after soft skills that are extremely valuable when training in a highly competitive field, ”said Trish Leyba, Director of the Office of Experiential Learning at NMSU.

“These soft skills include teamwork, problem solving, adaptability, communication skills, time management, interpersonal skills, critical thinking and initiative, to name a few. one. Students who engage in a cooperative give themselves a greater advantage in building their careers after graduation, ”said Leyba.

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“I know a lot of students get internships or co-op programs where possible, but it’s okay to participate in experiential learning opportunities in your last summer or even last semester,” Galarza said. “Experience is experience, no matter when you may have had it, as long as you know what to do with it.”

For students who are considering cooperative programs, Galarza suggests contacting NMSU alumni who work in cooperative participating companies for advice and valuable information.

To learn more about participating in co-op programs, contact the NMSU Experiential Learning Office at [email protected] or 575-646-1631.

Tiffany Acosta writes for Marketing and Communications at New Mexico State University and can be reached at 575-646-3929 or by email at [email protected].

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