Faced with a growing gap between the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the work place and those being taught in universities, three major Oregon companiesFreightliner, builder of heavy trucks; Tektronix, a maker of electronic test instruments; and pump manufacturer Bingham-Willamette (now Sulzer-Bingham)entered into an agreement with OSU's Department of Industrial Engineering to start the Manufacturing Engineering Cooperative Program. According to Mike Smith, a former Freightliner engineering manager and one of MECOP's founders, the first MECOP companies recognized that universities had some limitations. We were willing to help OSU overcome those limitations and, at the same time, help ourselves. We needed young engineers who would graduate with more hands-on education than they were getting. By combining forces, the new program would provide students with a working laboratory in which to apply the theories they learn in their classrooms.
By the end of 1978, the program had grown to include five companies but was still not ready for students. Because of the time required to organize the program and gain consensus among the University and industry sponsors, the first class wasn't admitted until 1980, when seven students were selected. From then on the program rocketed.
The success of the program attracted the interest of other departments in the OSU College of Engineering. In the fall of 1992, the Mechanical, Electrical, and Chemical Engineering departments began participating in MECOP. Other changes included moving the program from the Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering department to the Dean's Office in the College of Engineering, and changing the MECOP name to the Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program to reflect its expanded focus.
The expansion of the program continued. In 1998 and 1999, the first group of students from the College of Business participated in MECOP internships. Also during this period, Portland State University joined the program, placing their first students in 2000. Oregon Tech closely followed, joining the program in 2002, while adding the Manufacturing Technical and Mechanical Technical disciplines. In 2012, the University of Portland joined the program, further expanding our roster of excellent students.
As our roster of participants grew, MECOP decided to re-evaluate how it was organized. In an effort to best represent students, companies and universities in the program, MECOP decided to branch off from Oregon State University and become a non-profit, officially starting in the summer of 2012 as MECOP Inc. The program continues to expand each year.