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Internships are Win-win

Students and businesses both benefit

Internships are Win-win

(page 2 of 2)

     INTERN-AL HIRING: Each of these people interned at
     accounting firm KPMG’s Hawaii office and are now
     employees. From left: Glenn Shigetomi, Jamie Lee,
     Colleen Yoshino and Melissa Spence.
     Photo: David Croxford

Paid vs. unpaid

Myrtle Ching-Rappa, director of UH-Manoa Career Development and Student Employment, maintains that employers should always pay interns and says the center won’t list unpaid internships on its Web site.

She says the rule exists not only because of liability but because the center believes that if an employer expects students to do work that benefits the employer, then the students should be paid. “Our philosophy is that students should get credit for what they learn and they should get paid for what they produce,” Ching-Rappa says.

However, even in unpaid internships, employers should give students “real work,” she says.

“Don’t make them get the coffee or do copies,” she says. “Give them real work so that you can see whether they fit in or whether they have the skills necessary to do the job long term. For me, that is the only reason that justifies an employer not paying a student to do work – if there is potential of a full-time hire.”

As the recession left the job market in shambles, more employers began offering unpaid internships to save money while still getting work done.

“In the past, the ratio (of paid vs. unpaid) was pretty split, and then the recession happened and there were more nonpaid internships,” says HPU career counselor Sharon Santiago. However, more employers are beginning to offer paid internships again as the economy slowly recovers, she says.

Occasionally, there is outside funding for internships. Kamehameha Schools’ Kapili Oihana internship program pays some Native Hawaiian students who take unpaid internships, says Jewel Henderson, a career program specialist with the program. (Students can contact the program at or (800) 842-4682.) And the Hawaii chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists subsidizes summer journalism internships at local media.

The Shidler business school’s Web site lists both paid and unpaid internships. Varley says that when the economy was booming, about 55 percent to 60 percent of employers were offering paid internships, but now that number is in the “high 40s.”

Varley says he encourages students not to base their decisions on whether the internship is paid or not, or if the company “is a big-time name,” but whether the internship matches student’s goals and gives them good experience in their chosen profession. “Go after the ones that will really give you meaty opportunities to really sink your teeth into something and come away with some confidence that you can do something at the professional level,” Varley advises students.

     HPU career counselor Sharon Santiago

Rules on unpaid interns

In April, the U.S. Department of Labor clarified six requirements that businesses must meet if they do not pay interns or other workers at least the minimum wage:

• The training provided by the employer must be similar to that provided in a vocational or academic setting;

• The training must help the trainee;

• The trainee cannot “displace regular employees;”

• The employer receives no direct benefit from the training, and may actually be harmed;

• There is not necessarily a job waiting at the end of the training;

• Both the employer and the trainee understand and agree that the work done is for no pay.

“If it doesn’t meet all six of those conditions, it cannot be an (unpaid) internship,” UH’s Ching-Rappa says.

Interning at small businesses

HPU’s Barrientos says small businesses are one of the best places for students to intern because employers can focus more attention on training them. Small businesses can also offer students the chance to do many different things instead of being assigned to a specific department, he says.

Michelle Ng, a volunteer/outreach coordinator for Helping Hands Hawaii, recommends that small businesses looking for interns register with university career offices. But Ng adds that word of mouth is also important in attracting interns. “Once you’ve had a couple of interns with a good experience, it gets easier from there.”

Santiago says it is important for employers to push interns. “Challenging the students helps them not only grow as student professionals, but it helps the employer to shape the potential employees for whenever they graduate.” Interns are often hired full-time because they “already know the company’s culture and structure,” she says.

Varley recommends that students treat the internship as though it is a real job and to ask questions and show enthusiasm. “Be the best person they can be every time they step through the door,” he says. “I tell them people who are hiring are watching every step they make, and it could be a hit or miss for the rest of your career.”


First Choice When Hiring?
Intern or Other ‘Known Quantity’

John Barrientos knows how important internships are to both college students and the companies that hire them.

To demonstrate, the director of the HPU’s Career Services Center opens a packet of information titled “The Job Search” and turns to two multicolored pyramids. Each is divided into four layers:

• classified want ads
• job postings/agencies
• networking
• hiring a known quantity

One pyramid is labeled Employer Search; the other pyramid is labeled Employee Search and is flipped upside down.

“This is the typical job search,” Barrientos says. “When employers need to hire an employee, the first thing they do is hire a known quantity – interns, part-time workers. (If that fails), then they start to network, either within the company or outside of it. If they can’t find anyone, then they’ll start to post. The last thing they do is either post electronically or in the newspaper.”

Barrientos pointed at the Employee Search pyramid. “A lot of times, when we start looking for a job, this is our process,” he says, pointing at the section labeled classified want ads.

“So what we tell most students is doing an internship puts you right here,” he says, pointing to the known quantity and networking levels at the tip of the pyramid. “Sixty to eighty percent of jobs are filled right here.”


Top-Tier Internships

The accounting firm KPMG is one of the top 10 places nationwide to intern, according to’s review of 785 companies, and is a model for businesses looking to launch or upgrade internship programs.

Gordon Ciano, an audit partner with the KPMG Honolulu office, says the local branch hires two to four student interns each summer, usually from the UH Shidler College of Business.

Ciano says KPMG puts a lot of effort into recruiting interns. “We have dialogue with students early in their (school) careers, and by the time they are ready for their internship, they’ve probably attended a number of events that we’ve put on or met with a number of our recruiters.” These events include resume-writing workshops, mock interviews, a tour of the KPMG office, and social events such as bowling, scavenger hunts, mini golf and Dave and Buster’s parties.

“It’s not a short process, it’s a long process,” Ciano adds. “We do devote a lot of time and effort on campus, the reason being is we want to know who is out there, who is good and we also want them to know what KPMG is like, too. In our minds it’s a two-way kind of choice.”

KPMG interns are treated well. They:

• Earn an hourly rate equivalent to an associate’s salary
• Meet regularly with their mentors, who see how they are doing and if the internship meets their expectations
• Are exposed to many clients and can interact with KPMG professionals at all levels
• Receive a week of training on the Mainland and the chance to work at an overseas office

 “We want to make sure we hire the right student and we want to make sure a student is happy with KPMG,” Ciano says.


Finding Interns

Employers can use these university Web sites to find interns or other employees

• HPU Connect:
544-0230 or

• Shidler College of Business:
956-2675 or

• UH-Manoa general career Web site:
956-7007 or

• Chaminade University:
739-4654 or

• UH-Hilo:

• UH community colleges:

Hawaii Business magazine invites you to comment on our articles and the issues they raise. Comments are moderated for offensive language, commercial messages and off-topic posts and may be deleted. Some comments may be chosen for inclusion in the magazine on the Feedback page.

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