Officials: UNA students need work experience before graduation

by News Editor Anna Brown

One in three college students feel they had an internship or job as undergraduate students that prepared them for work in their field, according to a Purdue-Gallup survey.

With experience being one of the top requirements for jobs, an internship is essential to college education, said Employer Development Coordinator Amanda Terry of Career Planning and Development.

“Having experience eliminates the road block that college graduates face today,” Terry said. “If you have experience and have started early building experience on your resume, you set yourself aside from other candidates.”

Terry said internships and field-related work experience help students build relationships with professionals in the field and apply knowledge from the classroom.

“I get depressed when I go out to dinner at a restaurant and the waiter tells me they graduated last semester and have no job,” said Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost John Thornell. “We’ve made money from that student who expected getting a degree would help them find employment. I feel a sense of blame and ownership for that. We need to do something about it. We owe it to the students.”

Not all degree programs at UNA require an internship for a student to graduate, but she said UNA is taking steps to change that.

The College of Business offers courses where students can receive three credit hours, gain work experience and make money, she said. These courses are optional for students.

“There is a lot you can learn in the classroom but there’s no substitute for the real-world experience,” said Dean of the College of Business Gregory Carnes. “Once students have experience in their field, the classroom starts making more sense to them.

“Our goal is for every student to have some sort of work experience on their resume before they graduate,” Thornell said.

Degree programs in the College of Nursing and the College of Education and Human Sciences have hands-on experience built into the program, but degrees in the College of Arts and Sciences lack this component, he said.

“We would never take a nursing student with 140 hours of coursework and drop them in a hospital,” he said. “We shouldn’t do that to other students either.”

Junior Chelsey Flurry said she thinks employers should be willing to hire recent college grads who are willing to work hard and learn, even if they don’t have the “right experience” to fit the job.

She said she has had difficulties getting hired even at retail stores because of her lack of experience.

“I do think it is difficult to find entry-level jobs,” she said. “At several places where I had previously applied to work before I got my nanny job, the applications would say “experience needed,” when the people they were looking to work there are young adults like me who have probably not worked in that industry–be it retail, food or secretarial positions.”

Although, she said she understand why employers seek skilled workers.

Thornell said no faculty he has talked to are opposed to required internships for every degree program.

“It’s difficult to determine the appropriate internship for some majors, but we shouldn’t let that deter us from trying to get students into the world of work,” he said.

Terry said she thinks each college has to find what works best for them, but it is important they understand the value an internship brings to students.

She also said she encourages freshmen and sophomore students to find part-time jobs in their field in order to learn more about that work environment.

“Even if it’s just clerical work, you’re putting yourself in an environment to learn,” she said. “Before you know it, you have four years of experience in your field.”

Terry said she regularly helps students find good internships that fit their field of study.

“If you’re thinking you want to do an internship, we encourage you to come into the Career Planning and Development center and start early,” she said. “I may not know of an opportunity right now, but I may come in contact with one in the coming weeks.”