NCAN Members Prepare Students for Life With Internships

December 5, 2014

By Sara Melnick, Deputy Director

According to the 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index, students who participate in an internship opportunity were far more likely to feel that college prepared them well for life and jobs after college. Unfortunately, only 1/3 of recent college graduates strongly agree they had an internship or job as an undergraduate that allowed them to apply what they were learning in the classroom. The Gallup-Purdue Index is a joint-research effort with Purdue University and Lumina Foundation to study the relationship between the college experience and college graduates' lives.

Here are a few relevant findings from that survey:
  • 29% of students surveyed took part in applied internship or job
  • Women and African Americans are slightly more likely to report these internships
  • The percent of students who participated in internships increased 13% over the last 55 years
The good news is that colleges are expanding their internship offerings and more and more students are enrolling in them. In part this is in response to employers who, in a 2012 survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media's "Marketplace," indicated that they placed more weight on internships and employment during school than graduates' GPA, where they went to school, their major and other academic credentials.

And even more good news – more and more NCAN members are partnering with the business community to offer internship opportunities to students enrolled in their programs. The field of college access has experienced several paradigm shifts over the past few years -- first from "college access" to "college access and success"; or seeing students “to and through” a postsecondary experience. More recently, the national tide has shifted yet again on ensuring that students are "college and career ready." Some NCAN members have opted to broaden their focus to incorporate success and/or college and career readiness strategies and as a result, are offering internship opportunities for their students.  Providing internship opportunities for students is a tremendous undertaking and not one traditionally associated with college access programs. But some members who have the capacity are indeed taking it on.

Who among us are offering these and other career readiness opportunities? Below are brief descriptions of three NCAN members who are pioneering this work. Whether or not your organization has the bandwidth or charge to engage in this work, understanding the role internships play in your students’ success is important to maintaining a holistic view of the field of access and success.

Partnership for the Future: As part of their comprehensive program, Partnership for the Future offers their students summer internships where they can gain real life experiences in the business and non-profit world that prepare them for college and the workplace. Student interns are paid for their work and for two consecutive summers, have a workplace mentor and are offered learning and developmental opportunities. Employees at the worksites provide one-on-one counseling to their students, helping them to complete college, scholarship and financial aid applications. 

Genesys Works: Students who are part of the Genesys Works program are offered internships specifically in technical fields. Students enter during the summer prior to their senior year, undergo eight weeks of training, and then are assigned to work part time at a partner organization during their senior year. The training arms students with the knowledge and technical skills they need to work in the corporate environment. They also receive training in critical professional skills required to succeed in the corporate environment, including communications and corporate behavior. Corporate partners include Fortune 100 organizations, medical centers and financial institutions. Students are consistently exposed to a culture of high expectations and professionalism and leave the program believing they can overcome barriers and that they have the capacity to be successful in life. 

Education is Freedom: Education is Freedom created the Mayor’s Intern Fellow Program to (1) help students see the relevance of their academic pursuits and (2) the needs of the local corporate community. The program was started through a strong partnership among EIF, the Mayor’s Office and the corporate community. Students participate in a workforce development curriculum while being paid for meaningful work they are assigned on the job. Executives from participating companies are encouraged to act as mentors to their students; 85% of the students wind up enrolling in college. 

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