Internships can change a student’s life. They are one of the many experiential education opportunities, including study abroad, that offer students new experiences that they didn’t know existed. In addition to being a resume builder, meaningful internships provide a strong foundation to starting a career and preparing a student to enter the workforce. Here at Johnson & Wales University, experiential education enriches our academic programs and provides a clear path to graduation.
Nearly 400 Rhode Island businesses last year joined with Johnson & Wales University to offer internships and directed work-study opportunities to 744 JWU students. They did this because our students provide their companies with competent, mature and ready-to-work employees. The educational value to our students is that they are exposed to situations that allow them to apply the theory they learn in the classroom in the real world before graduating.
Internships lead to jobs. Here’s an example: Aditya (Adi) Dhandhania arrived in Rhode Island in 2007 and completed his B.S. in electronic engineering in just three years. Once here, Adi accelerated his classes to begin doing internships. A senior-year placement at GTECH changed his life. As he approached graduation, he was able to secure a position at GTECH in the same department in which he interned.
JWU believes strongly in this form of learning and has invested $4 million annually to provide students a stipend if they choose an unpaid internship. In addition, our internship model provides each student with two advisers: a faculty member and an experiential education staff member. This allows faculty to focus on the academic experience, while the experiential education staff member is the advocate for the student with the employer to be certain it is a quality experience.
Directed work experiences are also a way for students to experience real-world work situations. Recently, a JWU human resource class worked with Twin River Casino to create a training manual and job descriptions for their environmental service laborers. The project lasted for a full term under the supervision of a JWU faculty member. The student group used knowledge from the classroom and applied it to the real world by creating job descriptions and maintenance schedules, and documenting general health and safety policies.
Students who participate in experiential education opportunities become more connected to the community and are more likely to stay in state if presented with a job opportunity after graduation. The R.I. Student Loan Authority has announced that it will reduce a student’s RISLA loan by $2,000 if the student participates in an internship prior to graduation.
“Recent studies have shown that students who complete internships are much more likely to get jobs after graduation,” said Adrian van Alphen, director of employer relations and internship development for RISLA. In fact, a recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 63 percent of seniors with paid internships had at least one job offer when they graduated, compared with 40 percent who did not complete an internship. At JWU 74 percent of seniors who completed a paid internship were offered employment.
The Governor’s Workforce Board also has recognized the value of supporting internships by starting a new work-immersion program that will provide paid work experience for Rhode Island college students. The first phase of the program will allow businesses to hire interns at a rate between $7.25 and $20.00 per hour. Businesses that hire interns at the conclusion of the internship will receive bonuses.
Our goal is to create more success stories like Adi’s. He has been promoted three times since he moved from being an intern to a full-time staff member at GTECH. He also has completed his MBA and is well on his way moving up the corporate ladder.
We encourage businesses to call us at JWU at (401) 598-1070 to learn more. •
Maureen Dumas is vice president of experiential education and career services at Johnson & Wales University.