Internships Boost Careers

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
Internship Panel Image

Internship panel, L to R; Lisa Jersey (employer, Case Management Services), Alicia Goff (intern, Silver Voyages), TMCC's Marcie Iannacchione, and Henry Sotelo, Paralegal and Law Instructor.

Alicia Goff, at the time studying Web Development at Truckee Meadows Community College, asked her friends if they knew about any job opportunities for website building—and someone did.

The opening was at a travel-oriented Northern Nevada business that produces websites – some with a national reach. Alicia was hired and then presented the idea for an internship there to one of her professors and Marcie Iannacchione, Internship Coordinator at TMCC. They encouraged her to pursue it, she said.

“Marcie Iannacchione and my professors really want to help,” Goff said. “I’m so thankful for TMCC giving me credit for my internship. It ended up being easier than I thought and I got a lot of confidence from it.”

Goff graduated from TMCC with an associate degree in Computer Information Technology, with a Web Development emphasis.

Internships are a partnership of four

Iannacchione facilitates student internships at TMCC in many subject areas: for those in graphic design to the paralegal program to community health sciences to manufacturing production.

“Internship is a partnership of four: student, faculty sponsor, employer partner and me as coach and support,” Iannacchione said. “It’s a square coming together, building something great for students and employers.”

Iannacchione said there is a structured and organized process to connecting a participating employer partner, faculty sponsor and the student, and then to make sure the internship is a professional experience.

“I help the students write a resume and to learn more about speaking effectively in a professional setting,” she said. “I have the students do a lot of legwork and coach that a career is about relationship building. It’s important to help them know whom to reach out to, and how to ask the right questions. Soft skills are so important today – you have to connect.”

Internships may be required or an elective, and range from one to eight credits

Some programs such as Production Technician or Dietetic Technician require an internship as part of the curriculum leading to an associate degree, and other programs such as Computer Technologies offer internships as an elective. Students receive a letter grade from their faculty sponsor and an evaluation from the employer partner.

Credits possible for a semester internship range from one to eight credits with 75 work hours for each credit earned. Most often, students take three credits, working for 225 hours. An internship can also be repeated as an elective.

Goff completed a 75-hour internship with the graphics director at the company as her mentor. She currently works there full time, and says that the business is growing, needing more staff. Another student is now interning there who heard about the placement from Goff.

Internships benefit student and employer

In Spring Semester 2014, there were more than 40 students enrolled in internships, and Iannacchione projects about 50 for the Fall.

The demand for internships is growing.

“I’m getting more calls from employers all the time; it’s a big increase,” Iannacchione said.

Internships benefit the employer when they have a well-prepared student fresh from college programs that teach new or leading-edge trends in their industry.

Goff completes social media work for the firm in Facebook and Twitter. She uses Photoshop for managing image content for the Web, Joomla for Web-based content management websites, and NuSphere for PHP and HTML 5 coding. And there is a lot of coding needed, which is one of Goff’s favorite things to do at her job.

“I code almost eight hours a day – I feel that I’ve gained a bachelor’s degree in it with as much as I’ve learned,” Goff said.

An internship is not simply work hours alone, it has an educational component as well

Job skills and experience is not the only positive result for students. An internship is a way to build knowledge that supplements their educational curriculum.

Goff said that the internship helped her to graduate from TMCC, and boosted her career.

“It helped me to be able to do more advanced software and coding tasks, and gave my graphics director more confidence in me,” she said.

Iannacchione said that the faculty sponsor, employer partner and student write objectives for the internship and many times the student also journals their work experiences.

Sidney Sullivan, Career Center Manager at TMCC, adds that an internship will help a student apply new knowledge and also make better career decisions.

“An internship shows you the way to use learned skills in real-life work situations,” Sullivan said. “It’s also valuable if you find out that you either love the career field even more than you thought you would, or conversely, if you don’t want to continue in the specific field.”

An intern is shielded from excess work duties

For unpaid internships, the student is paying tuition for the credits; the benefit is education and experience instead of a wage.

There are guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Labor that protect unpaid student interns:

  1. Training is similar to training in an educational setting.
  2. The job placement’s purpose is to benefit the student.
  3. The intern is under paid staff supervision.
  4. The employer should not expect to profit directly from an intern’s work.
  5. An internship does not imply a subsequent paid position at the company.
  6. The intern is not entitled to wages for time spent on the job.

Iannacchione also coordinates with the companies providing the work experience.

“I’ve developed materials for employers to know how to structure an internship,” she said. “I touch base with all the partners about half way through the semester.”

In many cases, employers want to hire student interns upon graduation because they’ve made a connection and have spent time training the new professional in their company’s procedures, Iannacchione added. They save on additional training and recruitment costs.

The future is bright for internships

“I’m so excited for the students when I see that connection from college to career,” Iannacchione said. “We provide the bridge, building skills for the students to apply in a work setting.”

Sullivan said that a large company or organization often has needs beyond that of their main focus specialty, and there are many possibilities for interns.

“I met a representative of a local law enforcement agency at the Job Fair, and she said that her department needs a whole range of interns, including two in information technology, assistants in personnel and business administration, a photographer for crime scene photos, and researchers to investigate cold cases. They need students from other fields in addition to criminal justice majors.”

Goff highly recommends internships.

“Putting yourself out there, you will learn more than you expect and you learn real hands-on skills,” she said.

For more information about an internship at TMCC, please contact the Career Center.