Jerad Cole

Company: Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana
Company URL: http://www.toyota.com/about/our_business/operations/manufacturing/tmmi/
School: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Auburn, IN
High School: DeKalb High School, 2004
Expected Graduation: 2009

When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to enter engineering but didn't really know where I wanted to go.  I began looking into schools in the mid-west region such as Rose-Hulman, Ohio State, and Purdue.  I chose Purdue based on its excellent reputation, the Big Ten college sports atmosphere, in-state tuition, and because it was fairly close to home.  I first heard that Purdue had a Co-Op program through my father, who wanted me to join the program.  Initially, I was against joining the program because I didn't like the idea of missing every other semester and moving back graduation by a year, but after experiencing my first job fair at Purdue, I realized how important work experience was when it came to getting a job.  That is when I figured out that the Co-Op program was the way to go to obtain valuable work experience.

When I started the Co-Op program, I worked for Toyota at one of their manufacturing facilities in southern Indiana, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana (TMMI), where they make the Sienna, Tundra, and Sequoia.  I completed three rotations in the body weld department where I was assigned many different projects with varying degrees of difficulty.  For many of these projects, I was required to design new tooling fixtures, and was also responsible for every step of the project including fabrication, installation, inspection, and quality checks and trials.  For my fourth Co-Op term, I had the opportunity to work at the Toyota Technical Center (TTC) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is Toyota's North American research and design headquarters.  I worked in the Body and Chassis Strength and Durability group in the Vehicle Performance Development department.  I was in charge of running Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and performing Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) on the outer panels of the vehicles in order to determine the strength of the panel and find weak areas in the panels.  Overall, I would have to say that I like working in the manufacturing facility over the R&D facility.  I felt like the projects were more challenging and educational when compared to my projects and assignments at TTC.

In conclusion, if you were explaining the advantages of being a Co-Op student to high school seniors what two or three specifics would you list?  For example, what have you gained academically and on the job that you feel gives you an advantage:  As a Co-Op student, I have gained some very valuable work experience as well as some essential skills that you can't really learn or develop at school.  The most important of these skills would have to be communication skills.  In school, you aren't forced to communicate with multiple areas when working on a project.  At work, you are required to hold meetings and send numerous emails to keep many different people and areas updated with the progress of different project.  Also, you develop better time management and project management abilities through having set deadlines and being held responsible for projects that aren't completed in time.  These skills help you perform better when at school.  I have been able to better prioritize my activities and balance my time better when at school as a result of my Co-Op experience.