Facebook University, Twitter Academy, and Google’s Student Training in Engineering Program—all these tech industry programs embed education into the internship experience. Aligning work with education and education with industry needs is a given in computer science. Many colleges encourage internships beyond the computer science department, but are there ways to align curriculum more closely with workforce needs? Might this have a range of other advantages for educational institutions too? While internships certainly improve career prospects for students, the benefits for institutions may make it worth investing even more effort.
Integrating Career-Readiness into the College Experience
Only about 42% of employers rate recent graduates proficient in professionalism, work ethic, and written and oral communication skills. Internships may help close these gaps. Internships help students begin to develop their career skills, but can also motivate students to complete their education, especially with the promise of jobs that pay well on the other side of their degree. For lower-income students, a paid internship is especially beneficial, as that may mean that they can concentrate on learning more useful during college rather than flipping burgers to make ends meet.
Getting graduates more career-ready through internships benefits employers and the students themselves, but colleges gain in many ways too. For one thing, an educational institution’s graduates with internships on their resumes are more likely to get good jobs, reflecting well on the institution. Job experience can also give students inspiration and motivation to continue their studies. It is more tangible to work hard in your English class if you realize that your writing skills will help you move up the career ladder in the future. Seeing the real-world applications for knowledge helps students grasp the value of mastering skills that can increase their earning potential.
How Internships Work in the Tech Industry
For computer science students, getting an internship during their last two years of college is common and seen as the surest way to propel them into a job when they graduate. For employers, internship programs are a way to evaluate a pool of possible future hires, encouraging more applicants to their open positions that are otherwise difficult to fill will skilled candidates.
Computer science internships boost the chances of employment with name tech industry giants like Microsoft, Salesforce, Intel, Oracle, or Alphabet. The fact that these tech companies run internship programs ensures them a good talent pool from which to hire, plus the interns are already familiar with company culture and processes. In the tech industry, the shortage of trained workers has forced companies to become part of the solution: giving a leg up to talented students who might otherwise not invest their time in the skills that tech companies need in their workforces.
The Synergy of Education and Employment
There are shortages of qualified workers in job categories other than computer science, including skilled trades like plumbing and carpentry, but also in business jobs of all types. Many students from lower-income backgrounds end up dropping out of college, especially community colleges, because they need to work to support themselves and their families. They also don’t see a clear path through college to getting a good job. Combining education with paid career exploration may help more students to finish school and join well-paying professions.
The lack of qualified job applicants in many fields is hindering U.S. economic growth. We also see significant financial challenges in the education sector, with drops in enrollment and decreases in state funding. Partnerships between educational institutions and employers seem like a natural way to help employers, colleges, and students to achieve financial stability through alignment of their interests. Paid internships are especially valuable for tapping the talent pool of students from lower-income families, as staying afloat during higher education can be a real challenge for these students.
Moving Education Forward at the Speed of Tech
Tech giants like Microsoft and Apple are changing our world, but they also seem to have gotten something right in promoting internships as a way to strengthen their workforces. The tech industry has integrated internships and educational advancement into its operations so that more graduates will be career-ready. Computer science programs have also been working to align their curricula with industry needs.
Overall, educational institutions can foster more alignment between curriculum and employer needs by collaborating with employers in their communities and farther afield. Making college programs more relevant to employers and companies will contribute to solutions for our economy, all while reinforcing the value of education and shoring up the future careers of their graduates. Increasing the number and quality of internship programs is a good goal, but education institutions may need to expend the effort to get more buy-in from employers beyond the tech sector.