Internships Bridge College Work Gap

Colleen Garrison, Copy Editor

   Some major programs have internships embedded into the curriculum, but career center staff members say every student should complete an internship, and some may even be paid.

   “It is so important to gain that experience,” said Bernie Rushmer, Director of the Insalaco Center for Career Development.

   Internships provide students with the necessary experience to find the right job after graduation, said Rushmer.

   “It’s a way around the ‘Catch 22’ of needing a job to get experience and needing experience to get a job,” said Rushmer.  “Students gain experience that goes on a resume and they learn real world skills.”

   Rushmer said employers look for candidates who have internships on resumes because they build upon students’ strengths.  “Completing an internship or two makes an individual much more marketable,” said Rushmer.

   Sometimes student interns are even hired by their internship sites. “Although there is no guarantee, sometimes people do get hired,” said Rushmer.

   Joe Donahue, Corporate Relations Coordinator in the Insalaco Center for Career Development, handles internships for many students.  He receives requests from companies, but he also makes inquiries as needed.

   “If a student is really interested in a specific organization, I will reach out to the company to see if there are any opportunities. It’s all about networking and developing relationships with local companies. We want our students to have those opportunities,” said Donahue.

   Donahue connects with both for-profit and non-profit organizations.

   “Coca-Cola comes here once a year, and Enterprise comes to campus for the job fair.  Cintas also contacted me,” said Donahue.

   Rushmer said this is the first year that the administration has provided non-profit internships with monetary support.

   “It’s a great thing that Dr. Botzman supports some non-profit organizations by allowing students to be paid by the school for the intern hours.  This is new this year,” said Rushmer.

   Students can work at paid or unpaid internships.  Unpaid internships must meet the criteria of the U.S. Department of Labor.

   According to the website of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, an unpaid internship must meet the following criteria as set forth by the DOL.

   The experience must be an extension of the classroom: a learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom. It must not be simply to advance the operations of the employer or be the work that a regular employee would routinely perform.

   The skills or knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings.

   The experience has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications.

   There are clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework.

    There is supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience.

    There is routine feedback by the experienced supervisor.

    There are resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals.

   Rushmer said  the career center will not post an unpaid internship that does not meet all of these qualifications. Department chairpersons or faculty members can also review positions to see if they qualify. Donahue provides a checklist to students and staff.

   “There is an internal application that needs to be completed followed by the registration form that is sent to the registrar,” said Donahue.

   The employer provides a job description, and then the faculty member or advisor must meet with the student to review learning objectives.  Mid-term and final evaluations are completed by the student and employer during the course of the internship.

   The same steps are followed for both paid and unpaid internships. “We always say that applying for an internship is the same as applying for a job, “ said Donahue.

   However, if students wish to apply for paid internships, they must be sure to follow the proper steps. “The student needs to have their academic advisor approve the internship so they get academic credit for it,” said Rushmer.

   Students need to be proactive and ensure they have the credit space to take an internship. “The major will dictate if a student is required to take an internship or if they need to use an elective to complete it.”

   Another aspect of the internship process is the preparation of the resume.

   “Touch base with us so that can be sure your resume is updated and ready to go,” said Donahue.

   All internships approved by the Career Center are posted on e-MU under “Announcements.”  For more information, contact Donahue at 570-674-6184 or Rushmer at 570-674-8028.