COOP is an apprenticeship and job placement program based in New York City that targets underserved and underemployed City University of New York (CUNY) students and recent graduates with a clear pathway to full-time employment in the digital media industry. COOP partners with multiple CUNY colleges (Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Lehman, and Guttman) as well as community-based organizations entrenched in the CUNY system to find high-potential but underemployed CUNY students/recent graduates in need of direction for full-time employment opportunities with upward mobility.
Unlike other programs, COOP has built its own network of successful graduates who are employed at 200+ digital companies like Google, Microsoft, and Oath (formerly Yahoo) and who provide referrals to employment for current COOP students—an alternative pathway to the traditional networks that have persisted at employers and been an impediment to jobs pathways for those from less traditional backgrounds.
Since the program launched in 2014, COOP has served over 600 participants (over 85% of whom are minorities and over half of whom are first-generation college students), 80% of whom have launched full-time careers in tech, design, and media. The typical COOP candidate graduates six to twelve months before joining the program and earns an average of $15,200 per year. Following program completion, participants are earning, on average, $45,000 in year one and $70,000 by year four.
COOP participants are placed in a four-month training program in small cohorts of 16 peers. Cohorts engage in 200 hours of training on data analytics or digital marketing skills, soft skills (resume building, networking, interviewing), and project-based learning through client partnerships (teams of apprentices provide pro bono digital marketing services). Training workshops are held at night two to four times a week so that participants can maintain part-time jobs during the day.
COOP engages peer alumni as Cohort Captains or peer coaches in a “pay it forward” engagement model in which they are trained as a peer-led team to work with one cohort of program participants. These engaged alumni act as COOP ambassadors within their companies. COOP makes sure that referrals are going to underrepresented college graduates, diversifying companies’ talent pipelines and opening new doors for future COOP graduates.