Employers use interns
for their hiring pool
Employers reported that more than 30 percent of their entry-level positions in 2011 were filled by interns, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). More than 50 percent of their interns were offered full-time positions, they reported.
Numbers don’t lie; internships are an invaluable tool for finding work in this economy.
“As the economy continues to decline, many employers are beginning to use their interns as their hiring pool,” said Debbie Edwards, senior associate director of the WSU Center for Advising and Career Development. “Employers want applicants who know the company.”
In addition to their plans to reach out to employers, Edwards and her colleague Cindy Empey want to teach students the importance of internships for finding jobs. They have plans to create a campaign that will feature WSU students who have had internships and show their positive experience.
“Our big thing right now is trying to make sure students understand the importance of internships,” Empey said. “Internships make students more marketable during the job hunt.”
In 2005, NACE began sponsoring NACELink, an online network where employers post job offers and internship positions. NACELink provides more than 900 colleges and universities with private networks, allowing employers to search by university.
CougLink, the specialized WSU network, has more than 500 active postings and allows students to search for jobs and internships based on location.
PULLMAN, Wash. Interns make coffee, answer phones and do the work no one wants to do. That’s what internships are all about. Well, not at Washington State University.
At WSU, internships are encouraged as tools to help prepare students for work after college and to enhance their education. When done right, internships provide real-world experience and allow students to apply their skills.
The changes ahead
Four months into her new position at WSU, Cindy Empey, internship coordinator for the Center for Advising and Career Development (CACD), already has big plans to improve internship programs on campus.
“My hope is that, as we develop internship programs, we’ll work more closely with employers looking for interns so we can help create a better experience for both the student and the employer,” Empey said.
Her first step in improving WSU programs was to connect with other university departments to see how they were helping their students find and benefit from their internships.
Often employers want to create an intern position, but don’t know how to advertise for one or how to properly host an intern, she said.
“Employers need to learn how to create a learning environment that will nurture the intern,” she said. “We’re looking for companies who will do it right.”
Finding the right fit
Reaching out to employers to help create internships isn’t a new concept to Jennifer Luboski, an instructor in the Department of Psychology. In 1999, Luboski began teaching the psychology undergraduate practicum, a course designed to help students enhance their education through internships.
“This class is an elective for students who want hands-on experience in their field,” she said. “It helps students apply their skills, gives them experience that will help them get into graduate school and allows students to observe psychological principles in action.”
At the beginning of the semester, students select a site they are interested in working for. Students can either select from a list of sites where previous students have volunteered, or they can work with Luboski to set up a position with another organization.
The organizations students have selected have ranged from county jails to child protective services.
“We don’t want to assume all of our psych majors are going into clinical psychology,” Luboski said. “We want to give them options for where they want to work, so we let them decide.”
During the course, students keep a journal about their experience interning. They discuss future career options, ethical concerns, stress and burn-out. Luboski works closely with her students to help them get the most out of their interning experience.
Getting academic credits for work
Debbie Edwards, senior associate director of the CACD and Empey’s partner in the development of new intern programs, also helps to enhance students’ internship experiences through coursework.
|Students in Luboski’s undergraduate practicum discussing stress and burn out.
UColl 497 is an online course that grants students credit for their work, Edwards said.
“Employers like it when students receive credit for the internship,” she said. “They feel as if it creates accountability and commitment in the students.”
UColl 497 also focuses on internship benefits beyond real-world experience, Edwards said. Students learn about professionalism, commitment and what to expect from a potential employer.
Employers benefit from intern work
It’s obvious the benefits students receive through internships, so how can employers benefit?
Brian Clark, assistant director or marketing, news and educational communication for CAHNRS and WSU Extension, helps run a team of two and a half writers. Extension educators are constantly having breakthroughs in their research and it is his team’s job to publish these breakthroughs. It sometimes can get a bit tricky, he said.
|Jamie Kwiatkowski, CACD intern, working on event planning during her shift.
“I call it ‘feeding the shark’ because newsletter deadlines creep up on me,” he said. “I always need stories written for them and that’s where interns really come in.”
Over the last five years, Clark has hosted around 20 interns, and he knows how to create a good learning environment. Interns have always walked away with a great experience, Clark said.
“We want to share knowledge, contacts and experience with interns by making them a part of the team,” he said. “Interns are frankly a lot of work. It’s work I love, but a lot of work. Intern editing is like grading papers, but for students who actually enjoy writing.”
Clark’s interns are required to submit a draft of a story each week and contribute to multiple university publications, which helps them create clips for future job hunts. Despite the work, Clark knows he benefits as well.
“It does help a great deal to have an energetic intern to get stories on such short notice. Otherwise, most of those stories we would have let go,” he said. “It’s a win-win situation.”
Cindy Empey, Center for Academic and Career Advising, 509-335-6000, email@example.com