Internships at St. John's University: A Transition to the Workplace

Article excerpt

The placement of undergraduate students with local firms through an internship program eases the transition from the classroom to the lob market. Internship programs offer numerous benefits to students, employers and the colleges and universities that serve as intermediaries.

An internship program administered by a college offers substantial advantages for students, employers and the college. For maximum effect, the attitudes of student and company candidates must be conditioned so that they participate for the right reasons and have realistic expectations about the outcomes. Faculty involvement is necessary for the intermediary function to be performed effectively. The benefits for students include:

* Exposure to the discipline of a professional work setting

* A better knowledge of the tasks performed by professionals

* An opportunity to develop skills relevant to a particular career choice

* The ability to evaluate whether a career choice is compatible with one's interests and personality

* Personal contacts that can help in the job search at graduation.

Employers are provided:

* Talented individuals who make a genuine contribution to the production process

* A knowledge of the skills and attitudes of students that can be used to fine-tune recruitment and training programs

* An opportunity to influence the training of future recruits by communicating the skills needed in a changing business environment

* A "free trial" of potential employees.

The sponsoring university is provided with a "reality check" of its program, i.e., a perception of what employers expect from recruits, which is useful for updating the undergraduate curriculum. The university is also able to offer internships as a selling point to encourage students to enroll in the institution. Of course, the ability of the program to deliver depends on its structure and effectiveness.

The internship program of the Peter J. Tobin College of Business at St. John's University is unique. First, it has a full-time administrator who coordinates the program. Second, the program includes active faculty participation to integrate real world business experience within the academic framework.

Origin of the Program

The internship program at St. John's University began in 1987 with one company sponsor. The program now includes over 100 companies and has developed into a highly organized, research-oriented work experience for students. The program no longer places students in positions leading to full-time employment later, rather it exposes them to the opportunities in their field and gives them "real-world" research experiences. The program requires extensive interaction among company representatives, the faculty, interns and the administration on a regular basis. Approximately 50 to 100 students participate each semester in a wide range of internships.

Program Requirements

To maintain a quality program, students must meet certain academic standards. Internships are available to seniors with an overall cumulative index of 3.0 and a major index of 3.25 out of 4.0. The internship coordinator interviews all students before they are selected to participate.

Over time, the role of a participating company has been refined. Early participants often found it difficult to devise a job description to realize a student's potential, and many students were expected to complete mundane tasks. The program coordinator helps companies establish an internship experience that is mutually beneficial. For example, nearly all the students will make extensive use of the computer software in their field. Companies expect students to have a computer background prior to their employment.

There are four areas of study for interns. In the Administrative Internship, students participate in hiring procedures, salary administration, performance appraisals, career development, compensation, benefits, labor advisement and communication planning. …