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Former Hargrove Controls & Automation Co-Ops Reflect on their Experience


For nearly ten years, Hargrove Controls & Automation (Hargrove) has been proud to offer a Co-Op program to college students. While the number of Co-Op participants varies from year to year to align with project needs, Hargrove strives to provide real-world engineering experience for students involved.

Hargrove Controls & Automation Co-Op Program Fundamentals

Most Co-Ops complete three terms and are assigned to active Hargrove projects, and are given increased responsibility during each rotation. This helps Co-Op participants to get a comprehensive outlook on all project phases. Level 1 or 2 Hargrove teammates are assigned as mentors to assist each participant along the way with any questions that might come up, as well as professional and academic guidance.

New Co-Op participants begin by learning the basics of project work and are treated as entry-level engineers. It is important that we provide a foundation for our Co-Ops and teach fundamentals such as understanding P&IDs, basic coding, and developing soft skills through communicating with teammates and presenting to clients and leadership. Hargrove is also working to implement courses in fundamentals to enhance skillsets through the Hargrove University training portal, managed by Hargrove’s Talent Development Team. Once Co-Ops are up to speed, they are assigned tasks for their project including writing control system code and creating graphics. This is overseen by their project manager, Co-Op supervisors, and mentors. At the end of each rotation, the students present their work and experiences as a Co-Op to their mentors, leadership, and other teammates.

“Completing the end of round presentations really helped with public speaking and learn what kind of questions are asked in the industry.” – Megan McIntosh, Engineer II (Hargrove Co-Op 2014–2017)

Makings of a Hargrove Co-Op

Typically, those with Chemical, Electrical, Computer and Mechanical engineering degrees are most eager to apply for Co-Op positions with Hargrove, but they are not a requirement. As Jody Porier, PE, Engineering Leader, says, “the most important aspects are whether the student shows interest in the industry and has strong communication skills. Hargrove is looking for Co-Ops who are not afraid to learn new things and are involved in activities outside of school.”

What do former Co-Ops have to say about Hargrove

The main objective of Hargrove’s Co-Op program is to prepare students for work in the real world. Hargrove strives to hire former Co-Op students to work full-time with Hargrove upon graduation.

Most former Co-Ops say they were drawn to the type of project work and exposure Hargrove offers, as well as the Team atmosphere. The Co-Ops support many different industries and projects instead of being limited to specific sites with the same processes. Co-Ops are empowered to do real engineering work instead of watching it happen from the sidelines.

“Because we service several industries and program multiple platforms, our Co-Ops have the opportunity to really figure out where their interests lie and whether they want to specialize in an industry or be more of a technical specialist.” – Caidey Whatley, Engineer I (Hargrove Co-Op 2017–2019

During their Co-Op rotations, students are not only coached and mentored in the technical side of engineering, they also further develop their organization, decision making, time management, critical thinking, and networking skills. Co-Ops are able to meet a number of clients from a variety of industries and can then analyze what kind of work they find most fulfilling and where they might want to specialize in their career. The knowledge and experienced gained in a Co-Op rotation with Hargrove helps these graduates stand apart from their classmates in a competitive job market.

Hargrove’s dedication to community involvement through the Hargrove Foundation and the Hargrove Adaptive Toy Project are also attractive to Co-Op students and Teammates alike, providing ample opportunities to give back to the communities in which we live and work.

Many Co-Ops that have worked at Hargrove leave with a positive experience as a result of the environment and culture curated within the Team. The comradery, as well as Hargrove’s dedication to community involvement, makes it a great place to work.

“The Co-Op experience at Hargrove Controls & Automation provides invaluable insight into what life would be like as a controls engineer, which is a perspective that cannot be seen from the classroom.” – Sean Phillips, PE, Project Manager (Hargrove Co-Op 2014–2016)

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