Why Internships Matter

Commentary from an ALEX employee
Contributing Writer Ashley Romero

Going into college, I was hoping that once I finished my classes and got my diploma, then - BAM! Job offers everywhere! Swarms of employers piling at my front door begging for my service. To my dismay, I realized that all I see on job posts are: “At least two to three years of experience required,” for an entry-level position.

Nowadays, having a degree is simply not enough. This September, I started working at the Applied Learning Experiences Program (ALEX). Our aim is to give UH Hilo students a chance for some hands-on experience in their field. We realize that in a world of competition for high salary jobs, it pays to have experience. Quite literally.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) Class of 2015 Student Survey, students who had participated in an internship had a much higher chance of being hired, as well as a higher median starting salary offer compared to those who did not have experience.

For a private, for-profit company, there was a job offer rate of 72.2 percent, and a median of $53,521 starting salary offers for those with a paid internship. Those who had no internship experience had an offer rate of 36.5 percent, and a median starting salary at $38,572. Similar trends were reported in nonprofit organizations, as well as in local, state, and federal government offices. The good news is that at UH Hilo, there are several ways for every student to get some hands on experience:

1) Choose a for-credit internship as part of your academic plan. For example, business majors can use the 3-credit BUS 400 internship as a major course requirement. You can see a full list of internship courses on the ALEX website.

2) UH Hilo’s College Central Network. This is our online platform for making a connection to internship providers and employers. Hundreds of employers sign up on this website looking for qualified individuals to hire. College Central has a resume builder with sample resumes listed according to field of work. You can build a career portfolio, schedule events and programs, search for mentors practically anywhere in the world, and even listen to podcasts that may help your professional development. The site is pretty easy to navigate and really helpful too. And it’s free for UH Hilo students and alumni! Visit http://bit.ly/collegecentral for more information.

3) Looking to make personal connections in your field? The ALEX Mentor Program matches students with alumni based on personal and career interests. Mentors offer counsel and direction and can even become lifelong friends and partners who can help you reach your career goal.

From my own experience I can tell you that having this sort of person in my life has been priceless. My mentors have inspired me and encouraged me every step of the way. I look to them for guidance and wisdom because there are some moments in life where I honestly feel like I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m sure you can relate.

So far, working with ALEX has been such an enjoyable experience. We have an amazing team of hardworking and dedicated people who want to see students succeed in life. I love the idea of helping people find these applied learning experiences. I can’t help but feel really proud of my work.

Now, here’s how you can help us to help you:

We have been invited to take part in a national survey in order to gain a better understanding of UH Hilo students’ expectations and experiences. What opportunities have you enjoyed and what would you like to see offered? What are we doing right and what could we be doing better? The results will let us know what we should be working on and how we compare to other universities across the country. Whether you’ve participated in an internship or not, we really want you to have your say: http://bit.ly/uhhilosurvey.

If there’s one thing I could take away from this experience so far, it’s that there are myriad opportunities out there. All you have to do is look for them.

Throughout the three years I’ve been in college, I see so many students who choose not to take advantage of all of the great resources that being in college gives. I mean you already pay for it, so why not use it?

My job at ALEX has really given me a better sense of the faces behind the scene as well. People who care put a lot of time and effort into making students’ time here a worthwhile experience. ALEX definitely has those people, and we will continue to emphasize the ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings.