Too often, graduating college students face the dilemma of applying for jobs that require experience — yet they can’t get experience without being hired for a job, even if they already have many of the skills needed. At the same time, businesses, nonprofits and entrepreneurs have immediate challenges or back-burner projects they don’t have the budget to hire staff for and that current employees are too busy to complete. Internships are a great solution.

Students gain valuable experience and add to their skills during an internship, while applying knowledge gained from their course work. With little risk, employers benefit from having extra help while being able to evaluate potential employees. It’s also a chance to mentor the country’s future workforce.

During 2020, more than 24% of WSU graduates indicated they had participated in at least one internship, but that means 75% had not found, or perhaps even looked for, an internship. Yet 94% of hiring managers surveyed by the American Association of Colleges & Universities in 2018 stated they would be more likely to hire recent graduates who had internship or apprenticeship experience.

Students of Weber State University’s College of Arts & Humanities have accomplished significant projects during their internships, including social media outreach for a new clothing website; focus groups for a health clinic; videos for a fitness instructor; event planning for both corporate and nonprofit organizations; historical research for a museum; graphic design for brochures; translating Spanish and Japanese into English for social media; logo and corporate branding; and technical reports needed by an elementary school and local businesses.

If you are an employer or individual who wants to offer students internship opportunities, there are many ways to do so. First, you can advertise for free on Handshake, the job and internship website platform supported by Weber State. WSU’s Career Services reviews each new employer account and position posting, so those opportunities reach WSU students across all departments within three business days.

You can also work with a discipline-specific department where students do group projects. For example, the communication department hosts a student-run public relations agency, PEAK, and a video-production group, Studio 76. The art department seeks clients for its advanced design class, the foreign language department for its translation class, and the English department for its document design class.

If you have a need that requires multidisciplinary skills, you can find help from the project-based, team-oriented, on-campus internship course called R.E.A.L. Projects, through which a team of three or four students collaborate and complete a semester-long task.

Ogden High math teacher Christy Taylor submitted a project to the R.E.A.L. Projects class. “It connected me to resources I needed to extend understanding in my math classes,” she wrote. “Weber State students wrote a program using an Xbox Kinect camera to help my students visualize concepts such as position and velocity. My students liked the game and were surprised to discover that velocity wasn’t the same as speed, which they had assumed previously. With this project, they were able to experience the concept firsthand.”

Employers can also contact internship coordinators in various college departments, who can post internships for short-term projects. Individual internships can be paid or unpaid, depending on the organization’s status as for-profit or nonprofit and the expertise required from the student. Internship compensation can be an hourly salary, a one-time stipend, products or specific training not otherwise available to the student. Compensation can also come from networking opportunities, job possibilities or projects the students can highlight in their portfolios.

Employers can reach students by registering for the career and internship fairs and information sessions offered each semester. In addition to traditional internships and class projects, other high-impact, experiential learning involving community-university partners include cooperative education, practicums, student teaching and clinical rotations. These partnerships are equally valuable for both organizations and students.

A 2020 national survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers highlights the value of interns. At least 68% of employers extended full- or part-time positions to their interns. After one-year, retention rates for interns with internal company experience was 69%. Retention for those hired with external internship experience was 55%. Those retained who had no experience was 40%.

For organizations that need help on short-term projects, interns can be of immediate assistance. For employers looking to retain employees, the best way is to hire students and make them permanent at the successful completion of their internships.

Robert Ameling is the Weber State University assistant director of internships. Susan Hafen, Ph.D., is a Weber State University professor of communication and departmental internship coordinator.

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