Previous guest blogger, Chris Knowles, Associate Professor at Oregon State University’s Oregon Wood Innovation Center has asked for some space to make a plea to the industry to support student interns. He reminds us that the benefits go two ways—it’s not just us helping the kids. They offer us something too. Chris writes:
Helping students get work experience: What can you learn from students?
Universities are generally pretty good at using classroom learning to stuff students’ heads with knowledge that will help them have successful careers. Another aspect related to career success is knowledge and experience, however, most recent graduates lack hands-on work experience in a particular field or industry. An internship is the best way for students to acquire this experience and is one of the reasons that many university degree programs are requiring students to gain real-world work experience through internships before they can graduate.
In the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, we require that each graduating student complete at least six months of work experience before they can graduate. Internships can be structured in a variety of ways. Our students have broad interests and career goals ranging from manufacturing to sales, and even design. We strive to match students with companies that are a good fit.
Not only do internships benefit students, they can also benefit the companies hosting them.
Not only do internships benefit students, they can also benefit the companies hosting them. There are multiple ways companies can benefit from interns, including an infusion of energy and ideas into the program. Interns also bring a fresh set of eyes and may see challenges the company is facing in a new light.
Our students usually accomplish their six-month work experience requirement through work during multiple summers, typically beginning after their sophomore year in our program. In many cases, students are interns for the same company over consecutive summers. Their first internship tends to have a general focus and they spend their time either working in one role within a company or “floating” around the company learning about a variety of roles that fit their interests. In many cases, the second internship consists of the company developing a project that the student will spend part of or all of the internship working to solve a problem for the company.
Students can tell the stories of their internships better than we can, so here are some YouTube videos that describe the internship experiences of two of our recent graduates, Kait Crider and Danny Way. These two stories are excellent examples where both the student and the company benefited from internships.
How can your company become an active participant in our internship program? There are several ways. The easiest way is to develop an announcement for an internship and send it to us. We also host an annual networking session with our students call OWIC Innovation Days, which is an excellent venue for meeting and interviewing our students for internships.
Of course OSU is not the only program in the country with students looking for an internship experience. I encourage you to contact other universities and ask about how you can attract interns into your company. I promise you will not regret your decision and you may even learn something from a student!