Out of the college classroom and into the working world

Kara Willingham

Learning often takes place outside of the classroom. The Cooperative Work Experience (CWE) program offered at Saddleback is living proof. In this program, students are able to work or intern for a place of work relating to their interest or major, making it possible for students to experience a real-world setting while getting college credit.

Students enrolled in the CWE program take internships in areas such as: health sciences and nursing, interior design, fashion, foods and nutrition, horticulture,journalism, aquarium and aquaculture, automotive tech, communication arts, business science, and CDES and graphics.

Enabling students to practice their skills on the field has provided a different kind of learning environment. For participating students like Irma Salazar,47, the fashion design program took on a whole new meaning.

“CWE is an excellent program offered by Saddleback College,” Salazar said. “[The] professors in the fashion department have excellent contacts in the fashion and apparel industry in the Orange County and Los Angeles areas.”

Salazar landed an internship with Cach Cach Children’s Apparel, a high-end children’s apparel manufacturers in Santa Ana. Her internship lasted for five months and, during this time, Salazar learned a lot about the business.

“The manufacturer I worked for brought me in as an assistant fashion designer,” she said. “I learned first the business cycle of developing a garment from concept, design, patterning, sampling, and then was approved for production. It was very exciting to later see this product produced and sold in the following season.”

Through the internship experience, students are provided with the tools and networking abilities to further their careers in areas that they choose.

The director of CWE, Trudi Baggs, highly recommends the CWE program to those looking to broaden their horizons.

“This is a wonderful program for many reasons,” Baggs said, “the main one being an educational experience directly in the workplace for each student. This goes beyond the classroom experience and puts the student out in the field to use their skills and acquire a broader base. The employer also benefits and … can train and select these interns, which can strengthen their business base.”

The journalism program offers students a chance to write or do photography for a major publication in the area. With the help of program instructor Bill Thomas, students are introduced to the magazine or newspaper and taught how to actively participate.

“I believe this ‘real life’ writing or photography experience takes the student out of the classroom and into the actual world of journalism, learning about its challenges, components, problems, and opportunities,” he said. “This unique practical exposure can be a significant part of one’s education.”

College credit is given for participation in the program and some universities allow an internship to transfer over for credit. According to Baggs, a student must work 60 hours of unpaid work to earn one unit of credit and 75 hours of paid work to equal one unit. Most of the programs require one unit of CWE to fulfill their requirement, but some have two or three unit requirements.

Garren Hamilton , 20, fashion and visual merchandising, participated in the program as well interning with Kenneth Cole. His duties including redesigning the window displays and mannequins to give the store a fresh look.

“For me, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do fashion merchandising so this was kind of a test to see what retail is all about,” he said. “It is definitely a way to get your foot in the door. Once my internship was over, they wanted me to stay with the company.”

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