Hershey co-op opens doors for Elizabethtown business grads
Each year The Hershey Company, worldwide producers of chocolates and snacks, offers
co-op opportunities to Elizabethtown College business students. Co-ops extend academic credit for structured job experience so, in place of their regular studies, select sophomores, juniors and seniors work and learn for a semester in Hershey, giving them the opportunity to directly apply what they’ve learned in the semesters preceding. They are assigned to project teams and work on high-level projects for Hershey over a six-month period.
More often than not, Hershey offers these students fulltime employment before graduation. Morgan Reiss ’18, one of nine Elizabethtown College students who completed the Hershey co-op, already has accepted a post-Commencement job as a retail sales rep.
During a first-year introductory class, the E-town senior business administration major heard about the opportunity to work for a Fortune 500 company. “I couldn’t pass it by,” she said. “Honestly it just sounded really amazing.”
E-town students are hungry. They are hard-working.”
Sylvester Williams, Elizabethtown College associate professor for business law, who organized the Hershey
co-op for the department of business, helped connect Reiss to the right people at Hershey, she said. In January 2017, rather than attend classes, she worked fulltime at Hershey, getting her feet wet with real-world applications in “innovation, variety brand, go to market and merchandising.” She split her time at Hershey between its Merchandising Center of Excellence and it Global Customer Innovation Center, she said, and spent her days analyzing data and learning about design work for in-store displays through creative challenges from merchandising partners.
“I was able to use my critical thinking skills to make decisions,” Reiss noted, pointing out that she never pictured herself in charge of or analyzing a budget. And, her final project (shh, it’s a secret) is set to hit the shelves in 2018! “I’ll walk into a store and there it will be,” she said. “That will be so awesome.”
Reiss said her permanent position with Hershey begins just a few weeks after graduation. “I won’t know where I’ll be working until closer to graduation.” But, after reconsidering a career in sports marketing after the co-op, the E-town volleyball player now clearly sees herself working in candy … “in corporate, back here at Hershey.”
Students, said professor Williams, discuss the Hershey co-op program during the College’s Open House and Accepted Student Days as a means to prime their interest for when they are further along in their studies. In the program, students who have already taken part in the co-op speak with prospective students about the experience.
“The Hershey Co-op continues to deliver great opportunities for our students,” Williams said. In fact, all Elizabethtown College students who have completed the Hershey co-op are most likely offered a full-time position.
Senior Jessica Sullivan, a business administration major with a concentration in marketing and a minor in communications, worked for Hershey for six months—over the summer and during spring semester. She also landed a job with the chocolate maker prior to graduation. She opted, however, for a new experience with Hunt Valley, Maryland’s McCormick spice company, where she’d also interned during another summer.
“The co-op helped me so much,” she said about her experience at Hershey. “When I applied with McCormick, the Hershey name on my resume sold it.”
David Nolen, senior director of category, strategy and insight, has been working with the E-town co-op for the past three years, conducting interviews on the spot when he comes to the College in September to talk to students about the culture of The Hershey Company.
The co-op is not about fetching coffee and making copies, he said. Students do real work; sometimes, deep conversations on the code of conduct take place.
Out of the half dozen co-ops, three to four are reserved for E-town students. When the co-op is completed, the students meet with the vice president of the retail team, and contingent employment offers are extended. “We get great value from E-town students,” Nolen said. “E-town is the only small, private college that we recruit from. … E-town students are hungry. They are hard-working.”
Kelsey Detweiler ’17, an analyst on The Hershey Company’s Global Consumer Insights team since June, said she’s convinced she wouldn’t be in her present position if it hadn’t been for the co-op opportunity. “It set me apart from other 2017 business graduates,” she said.
“During my co-op I worked on several projects that expanded into multiple departments, and because of that, I was able to build my cross-functional skill set and also do quite a bit of networking.
“Overall,” she said, “the co-op at Hershey gave me much more confidence in my ability to deliver strong, impactful insights to corporate America.”