Students encouraged to seek internships early
April 8, 2010
Eight programs at UW-River Falls call for their students to complete an internship before graduation, and the struggling economy is pushing students to change their search to fill this requirement.
Students majoring in dairy science, theatre, horticulture, conservation, food science, land use planning and communicative disorders (which has an internship that is filled through supervised observation) are all required to complete an internship in order to graduate, according to the majors and academic plans that are listed on the academic programs section of the UWRF Web site.
Students who do not have majors that require internships can also benefit from them. Internships help provide real-world experience, develop professionalism, create networking and ground interns in the reality of the career, said Eric Sanden professor of land use planning.
Steve Dzubay, publisher of the River Falls Journal (as well as the Hudson Star-Observer & New Richmond News), is in charge of putting together the budget for the River Falls Journal. The Journal cut their intern position this year due to lack of funds.
“We typically budget about $3,500 for intern wages, and this year it was an expense we simply couldn’t afford,” Dzubay said. “We’re looking at performance on a month-to-month basis and if at all possible, the position will be restored. At this point I’m simply not sure.”
Steve Kelm, from the department of animal and food science, said fewer companies are offering internship positions.
“Some students, who do not interview well or who are marginal students, really struggle in placement,” Kelm said.
Sanden said students need to change the way they seek internships by being willing to travel, look further or relocate, possibly complete volunteer internships and be aggressive in seeking internships.
Terry Ferriss, director of the CAFES internship program, said employers want to hire students earlier than before and they are filling positions temporarily with internships to fill positions cheaply.
“We pay $9 an hour, which is pretty good for an internship, and compared to other positions it is relatively inexpensive for us,” Jeff Epping, director of horticulture at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison said.
“We get a lot of good labor from interns and give them an educational opportunity,” Epping said.
Theatre major Al Broeffle, who is currently completing his internship at The Jungle Theatre in Minneapolis, was very proactive in his internship hunt.
“Take advantage of the poor economy. You’re free labor that a company cannot get in trouble for hiring,” Broeffle said.
“I had a really easy time finding internships. It’s important for people to seek out these experiences. It’s not enough to go online and mass produce your resume. You need to go to businesses and introduce yourself, hand out resumes personally, and give a reason for the company to want you.”
Ferriss, CAFES Internship director, also stressed the importance of being proactive and approaching people.
“Pull together a resume, get assistance from Career Services and advice from advisors,” Ferriss said. “Talk to a faculty coordinator for internships; they offer the best help.”
Career Counselor and Marketing Supervisor McKenna Pfeiffer said students should start searching and inquiring about internships immediately so they can effectively plan their coursework.
“It is very common for students to complete internships between sophomore and junior year as well as junior and senior year,” Pfeiffer said. “Some internships are limited to a summer experience, while others can be completed during the academic year.
Starting early will help students identify all of the options that are available and help them effectively pick one that will fit with their schedule.”
Students with a major that requires an internship may need to reconsider their graduation goals as they seek an internship.
“I did take a semester off of classes to fulfill my responsibilities in my internship,” Broeffle said.
“This was done by my own will. I think that student’s need to rethink their education process. With the economy in a slump the way it is, we should be less interested in completing our degree and put more effort in gaining experience in our field.”
Epping, director of horticulture, encourages students to complete internships while they are still in school and not tied down.
“Your salary for your position at your first job should be better based on the fact that you have experience,” Epping said.
“So it is an investment, a lot of fun and builds confidence in your knowledge.”