MECOP 25th Anniversary News

Story Posted: 5/1/2003

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Contacts:
Larry Martin: 541-924-6896 (larry.martin@wahchang.com)
Gary Petersen: 541-737-9595 (Gary.P.Petersen@orst.edu)

The Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program (MECOP) 25th Anniversary Banquet and Civil Engineering Co-Op (CECOP) 5th Anniversary were held Wednesday, April 23 at the Embassy Suites in Tigard, Oregon. One hundred and sixty (160) people attended the event, including students, staff, representatives from member companies and guests. The event also honored the 5th Anniversary of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Co-Op Program (CECOP). The following are excerpts from two of the evening's speeches. Background information on MECOP is provided at the end of the excerpts and further information is available through the above-listed contacts or at http://mecop.orst.edu.

OSU President Timothy White Praises Symbiotic Relationship

In his speech at MECOP's 25th Anniversary Banquet, Dr. Timothy White, President of Oregon State University, discussed the unique relationship between industry and education that defines the program. It's a relationship that he says "is stronger than ever, unlike the economy of today. This relationship, when you boil it down is all about good people working together for a common cause and the greater good."

Dr. Timothy White, President of Oregon State University

According to Dr. White, "MECOP is indeed an exemplary partnership. It is a committed relationship, and it's between higher education in the state of Oregon and your industries. This symbiotic association really benefits the students of Oregon State University, Portland State University, and OIT, but it also benefits the companies from the north to the south and the east to the west that participate in this Program.

"The progeny of our committed relationship," he said, "are the thousands of talented graduates who do not leave the State of Oregon for far-away jobs unless they so choose, but actually stay in this region to become part of our economic base, our social base, and our cultural base. They contribute to our local economy, the contribute to our regional economy, and they contribute to the world economy in this day of globalization."

"It's the only program of its kind, that we've learned of, in the country," said Dr. White, "That really is something."

"At Oregon State University, we're well on track and on schedule in building our program into thetop 25 in the country. We're very proud about that as a goal. We're very proud about the success that we've had to-date in reaching that goal. We're all about touching lives through innovation. That is our commitment to the State of Oregon."

"In the halls of higher education, we are constantly trying to create an educational environment that provides students with much more than just traditional classroom experience tapped out on whiteboards or chalkboards or overheads," he said. "We're always searching for unique ways to apply what's taught inside the classroom to what are the realities of the outside world--which is where, after all, our students eventually find themselves living, competing, and prospering."

Dr. White said he believes that the MECOP and CECOP internship programs accomplish this integration of theory and application in an ideal, almost seamless way. "By providing hands-on experiences, our students learn and when they come back to the university, they are much more aware of what they need to pay attention to. They ultimately leave the university in a "work-ready" way. By the time they don cap and gown and move from the halls of higher ed to the corridors of your businesses, they are ready to get some work done," he said.

In addition, he pointed out that "returning to school following a MECOP or CECOP internship helps students fine-tune their studies to better attain their life goals." Dr. White quoted MECOP intern and Environmental Engineering student Linda Peterson:

"My internship has prepared me for real-world engineering better than any class could have. I've returned to college with renewed enthusiasm. And now that I see where my degree is leading, I'm making better choices."

Dr. White went on to say that "By establishing close partnerships with industry, our educational offerings... our research findings, we've become a much more attractive university for people who are deciding where to get their education. Excellence attracts excellence, it attracts resources, and itattracts good people to our universities. That can only help the state, particularly in its economic recovery mode right now."

He mentioned that, in addition to students and universities, industry has benefited from these partnerships. "Our industry partners claim that supporting MECOP and CECOP interns is a great investment," said Dr. White. He quoted Don Barckley of Merix Corporation:

"With our interns, we routinely get five to ten times the return on our investment. MECOP is truly a unique partnership between progressive Northwest companies and (Oregon's engineering schools)."

Dr. White pointed out yet another economic benefit, one that truly hits home. "By letting the parents of potential interns know that their son or daughter can expect to earn an average of $35,000 dollars during their two, paid, six-month internships, we make education more accessible, recruit more top students...and make a lot of parents very happy." (a MECOP intern is paid by the industry company that he or she works for.)

After thanking industry, staff, and university partners, Dr. White closed quoting Gandhi: "We must become the change we want to see." He then offered his own words of encouragement "for those in the future" urging them "to reach even greater heights because, quite frankly, for the state of Oregon, nothing short of world-class will do."

MECOP Chairman Outlines Plans to Expand Internship Program

Not all of Oregon's educational programs are suffering. The Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program (MECOP) is actually thriving. Mr. Larry Martin, who is the volunteer Chairman of the OSU-, PSU-, and OIT-affiliated MECOP, outlined early plans for changes to the organization's structure "that will allow for exponential expansion" at the MECOP's 25th Anniversary Banquet Wednesday night in Tigard. Martin, who works for Albany-based metals producer Wah Chang, described a new structure that goes beyond an engineering internship program and into other fields of study. "MECOP continues to search for ways to expand its capacity to include larger numbers of students in a wider range of disciplines," said Martin.

 

Larry Martin, MECOP Chairman

"MECOP is perhaps the most successful internship program in Oregon and possibly the US today," according to Martin. "Every year, the program places over 200 competitively selected juniors and seniors into highly relevant working internships in over 50 Oregon companies," he said. "This unique company-university-student partnership, now in its 25th year." He emphasized that MECOP operates with no tax payer funding. "This is a highly successful model for enhancing the educational process of our university students and one which could be applied to other areas of need within our secondary and higher education system," he said.

Martin pointed out that MECOP has a long history of success, but has changed and grown significantly in its 25-year history. He said that in the organization's first ten years, the number of sponsoring companies grew from 8 to 21, while students placed grew from 7 to 38. In the 1990s, when he says "the paradigm shifted to meet growing needs," new disciplines, including Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Computer Science were added to what was then called the Manufacturing Engineering Co-Op. "In 1998, Portland State University was added and helped us with the Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering Disciplines," said Martin. With this "paradigm shift" came a change in name (though not the MECOP acronym) to Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program. More importantly, according to Martin, "member companies grew from 21 in 1989 to 52 in 1999" while student placements "grew from 38 in 1989 to 250 in 1999."

2001 was the pinnacle for companies and students placed, according to Martin. "288 interns were placed into 63 companies," he said. "We have a model that works. It's worked for 25 years, and will continue to work. Even though we have huge layoffs out in our industries, we're still placing over 200 students out into internships today.

But the MECOP Chairman emphasized that he sees a limitation to future growth of the present industry member companies at 300 students. "Even in 2001, not all qualified students became MECOP interns," he said. "Last year, we had to turn away 120, what I consider, quality students who couldn't make it into our program due to lack of demand."

With "the ability to enhance the education of Oregon's qualified students reaching its limit," Martin discussed the problem and proposed solutions. "MECOP is a trailblazer in providing customer-financed and led internship opportunities for selected students within Oregon's university system," he said. "The model is proven but is still turning away too many qualified engineering and computer students."

He suggested "two paradigm shifts must now occur if we're going to continue to expand our program and reach more students. One, the current MECOP manufacturing board must be modified somehow to allow more engineering students to be taken in." Martin said that one proposal on the table is to divide the current MECOP-manufacturing organization into two separate boards (manufacturing and electronics) to allow for expanded growth within each smaller board. "We're doing a lot of soul searching on that," said Martin. "Nothing will occur until we have 100% buy-in from all of the board. But we're looking at creative ways to expand the structure to add more students."

The second paradigm shift, according to Martin, is "the MECOP model should be expanded to include other output-based curriculum to supply demand at the business enterprise level. We're more than just technical entities. We're in a larger enterprise." Martin envisions new programs following the established, proven MECOP and CECOP patterns. You could have a whole variety of possible disciplines that could positively impact your enterprise... from marketing to finance to accounting to industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, to civil engineering, environmental engineering and on and on."

"I believe that if we're successful in those two paradigm shifts, we will not see 288 students go out, we will see 1288 students go out," said Martin. "This will put OSU, PSU, and OIT on the map. They will be places where students want to come for their educations because of our program."

Martin, whose son Larry Jr. is a MECOP program graduate and employee of Tigard-based ADEC, closed his speech saying, "The model works... all you need to do is ask the 2200 graduates. We have successfully kept Oregon students in the state of Oregon."

"The founders laid the foundation of success we see today," he said. "The founders created a mobile and flexible MECOP, one that be flexed to even more qualified students than ever before. In my opinion, MECOP is and always will be the best internship program anywhere, period."

MECOP Background

Conceived in the summer of 1978, MECOP was to be a collaboration between OSU and Oregon-based manufacturing companies that hired engineering graduates. Faced with a growing gap between the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the work place and those being taught in universities, three major Oregon companies--Freightliner, builder of heavy trucks; Tektronix, a maker of electronic test instruments; and pump manufacturer Bingham-Willamette (now Sulzer-Bingham)--entered into an agreement with OSU's Department of Industrial Engineering to start the Manufacturing Engineering Cooperative Program. According to Mike Smith, a former Freightliner engineering manager and one of MECOP's founders, "the first MECOP companies recognized that universities had some limitations. We were willing to help OSU overcome those limitations and, at the same time, help ourselves. We needed young engineers who would graduate with more hands-on education than they were getting." By combining forces, the new program would provide students with a working laboratory in which to apply the theories they learn in their classrooms.

By the end of 1978, the program had grown to include five companies but was still not ready for students. Because of the time required to organize the program and gain consensus among the University and industry sponsors, the first class wasn't admitted until 1980, when seven students were selected. >From then on, the program rocketed.

The success of the program attracted the interest of other departments in the OSU College of Engineering. In the fall of 1992, the mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering departments began participating in MECOP. Other changes included moving the program from the industrial and manufacturing engineering department to the Dean's Office in the College of Engineering, and changing the MECOP name to the Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program to reflect its expanded focus.

The expansion of the program continued. In 1998/99, the first group of students from the management information systems program in the College of Business participated in MECOP internships. And in 2000, mechanical engineering and computer science students from Portland State University had the opportunity to participate in this innovative program. OIT joined MECOP as a university partner in 2002, enhancing the program by adding the Manufacturing Technical and Mechanical Technical disciplines.

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