Internships are Win-win
Students and businesses both benefit
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These students from UH’s Shidler College of Business
The advantages of internships are becoming increasingly obvious to businesses and to college students.
More students than ever are interning before graduating, and businesses small and large are drilling pipelines into universities to find those students.
Universities are making it easier for the two groups to connect. Hawaii Pacific University’s HPU Connect Web site lets students and alumni search for internships and upload their resumes for potential employers to view, while allowing employers to post positions, view resumes and collect applications online. Over 640 businesses use HPU Connect, including the CIA, AT&T and the YMCA.
“An employer will call and say, ‘Hey, I have a great internship opportunity,’ so we’ll take the information and create an account for them with HPU Connect and list all the information about the internship, and then that’s posted on HPU Connect,” says John Barrientos, director of HPU’s Career Services Center.
University of Hawaii-Manoa’s Shidler College of Business has a similar password-protected Web site where its students can find internships. Over 1,000 companies are registered, according to Richard Varley, director of Shidler’s Office of Internships and Career Development. Students can search the internships and send a resume to companies, and, if a company is interested, it will ask the student to apply.
Richard Varley heads the intern and career office at
“We want to make it as much like finding a real job as possible, because that’s part of the experience,” Varley says.
Varley says the economic downturn has attracted more students to the internship program. When the economy was healthy, about 150 to 165 business students used the Shidler program each semester, but there were 212 this spring.
“Students have the sense the market is a lot tighter,” Varley says. “There is no guarantee walking out of college with a four-year degree that you are going to get a job. Now they are saying, ‘I need a degree and as much experience as possible,’ so more and more students are doing internships.”
About 53.3 percent of internships turned into full-time jobs, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers 2010 Internship and Co-op Survey. Even if the company doesn’t hire the intern, the internship increases student’s likelihood of landing another job after graduation.
Internships are often a win-win for the intern and the employer. Employers can save money over paying a full-time employee and they have what amounts to an extended interview with the student.
“They get the chance to spend four months with a young person to see what their abilities are, how they handle real work environments, how they handle ambiguity, how they handle stressful situations, and then they can make a full-time hiring decision based on four months of solid experience with a student rather than a one-hour interview,” Varley says.
On the flip side, student interns can learn what it is like to work at different businesses or organizations, and gain experience in a profession they may be thinking about entering while sometimes earning a paycheck and credit toward their degrees.
“The students get to understand really who they are, what their strengths are and what kind of career they want,” Varley says.
Pays off years later
Syd Kawahakui knows the value of networking as an intern, even if it didn’t pay off until several years later. After Kawahakui graduated from UH-Manoa in 2004 with a double major in Hawaiian Studies and Hawaiian language, he took a summer internship at the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps, where he was a team leader for 10 to 12 children. Kawahakui says he supervised as the children did “outdoor, hands-on projects” on Oahu and the Big Island.
Three years later, he ran into someone he had worked with at HYCC, who told Kawahakui about an opening at the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Kawahakui applied and was hired as a general laborer before working his way up to field supervisor, where he now helps oversee interns.
Kawahakui says an intern should be open minded, a “sponge” that tries to soak up as much information from the people with whom they work.
“Basically an intern is just a hired servant for you,” he says. “We get free labor, basically. But if we see that the intern actually wants this job and is really inspired to do this kind of work, then we jump over hurdles to keep him with us or try to find jobs for them to do.”
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