VALDOSTA, GA – As college graduates begin to enter the workforce, many companies are observing that today’s entry-level employees lack necessary workforce skills, including effective communication, critical thinking, creativity, and ability to collaborate or work as a team.
These fundamentalworkforce skills are not often gained in a traditional classroom setting; however, they can be acquired through professional internships.
According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), approximately 50 percent of employers would like to see internship experience on a student’s resume.
VSU’s office of Career Opportunities, in collaboration with the College of Arts and Sciences and the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce, is providing students with theopportunity to gain valuable work experience through internships in the local community.
Last year, faculty within the College of Arts and Sciences approached the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce regarding internship opportunities and how to assess the skills and requirements employers are requiring from interns and potential employees.
“The English Department has had an informal relationship with the Chamber of Commerce for years, occasionally sending interns to work for Chamber of Commerce members,” said Dr. Mark Smith, head of the English Department. “Those interns were generally well received, so we knew we had something that worked. The next logical step was to formalize the relationship to establish a more consistent stream of interns to benefit both our students and Chamber of Commerce businesses.”
To help prepare the students for internships, the office of Career Opportunities developed Preparing for Internship Opportunities, a one-hour course that addresses the importance of work-based learning, proper interviewing and the application process, and workplace ethics and expectations. Students are also given instruction on how to effectively market their experiences and skills to potential employers, while also gaining a better understanding of the expectations of future employers.
According to Crystal Goode, course instructor and career counselor, students are taught how to identify internship opportunities and effectively market themselves to prospective employers, as well as workplace ethics. Specific topics addressed include resume writing, business correspondence, interviewing and workplaceattire, networking, and dining etiquette.
“…the students learn valuable skills that can be utilized in obtaining future employment opportunities as well as advancing in their chosen professions,” Goode said.
Goode also stated the greatest benefit to the students is the realization that they are prepared for the workforce.
“I’ve already had students from the first group of interns tell me that there were topics in class they didn’t think would ever apply to them,” Goode continued, “only to find that they were faced with situations in their internships in which they were able to draw from the knowledge obtained in the course.”
Once students have successfully completed the course, Varian Brown, director of economic development at the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce, works to find internships that match the student’s experience and interest with the business needs of chamber members.
“This partnership helps the chamber create more opportunities to connect our local talent that are graduating from our colleges and university with chamber members,” said Brown, “and it also provides an opportunity for chamber members to utilize local talent.”
Bryant Beverly took the internship class in the fall semester and completed an internship with the South Georgia Regional Library System the following semester.
“I quickly learned while searching for jobs that most entry level positions require one to twoyears’ experience,” said Beverly, who graduated May 7 with a degree in computer information science. “I decided the internship opportunity would help prepare me for a job and give me valuable experience.”
Beverly was able to put his education and technical skills to work helping the library recreate itswebsite.
He also stated that the internship course provided him with valuable professional skills such as time management and work ethics.
Avius N. Poole, an English and political science major, completed the course during spring semester and is scheduled to begin an internship with the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce in August.
“I heard about the course from my political science advisor who believed the course was agreat avenue for me to an internship,” said Poole. “Once I looked more into the class, I thought that it could help me enhance and gain skills that my normal course work would not have given me.”
Poole said the class was very beneficial and provided skills for seeking employment, as well as everyday life skills.
“I will always need to use my resume for jobs, internships, and scholarships, so editing and learning how to write and present a resume is vital to my success,” said Poole, who is currently interning with Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.
Source: Valdosta State University