As post-graduate employment concerns have multiplied for undergraduates so too have internships, co-ops, and job-shadowing opportunities. But institutions with internship requirements for graduation, institutions in rural areas and those in urban ones clogged with a myriad of other universities all face their own challenges to produce sufficient work experiences for their students. To address these shortages two innovative institutions have turned their focus inwards.
Ryerson University turns jobs of necessity into valuable professional development
Although most students see on-campus jobs as merely opportunities to make money, Ryerson University saw greater untapped potential. Through their ‘Career Boost’ program, Ryerson turned these work experiences into valuable preparation for students’ careers by developing desired learning outcomes and then aligning on-campus job responsibilities.
“This whole system is designed to help students understand that their on-campus job—even with occasional mundanity—is actually directly related to their employability after graduation. The learning domains, and this exercise, help students practice to articulate their skills to prospective employers.”
-John Austin, Executive Director of Student Affairs, Ryerson University
First, staff established the ten most essential skills for student employees to gain by researching student development theory, higher education standards, and employer surveys. Career Centre staff then met with each college’s student employee supervisors to explain the skills and help map them to existing job descriptions, or if necessary, write new job descriptions.
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In response to employer feedback, Ryerson also recently developed a “Cross-Campus Induction Day,” an orientation that guarantees all student workers start with a strong understanding of appropriate office behavior, work-place diversity and inclusion, and how their on-campus job will prepare them for their future career. Student employers have found that the program improves punctuality, overall professionalism, productivity, and the quality of student employee work.
Western Oregon University’s on-campus internship program
Beyond traditional student employment, colleges and universities are also able to offer substantive, paid internships on campus—providing dozens of new experiential learning opportunities, particularly beneficial for students who may be place-bound or unable to find external openings. The Service Learning and Career Development Office at Western Oregon University (WOU) has partnered with administrative units and departments to develop paid, on-campus internships complete with learning outcomes, assessment, and reflection free of charge to the partner unit.
Interns work in a variety of campus units, which are required to detail learning objectives, job responsibilities, and relevant assignments in proposals to the Service Learning and Career Development Office. At a cost of $1,000 per student (interns are paid $10 per hour, for 10 hours per week, over a 10-week period), WOU has been able to offer 32 competitive internships within their own institution.
All applicants to the program must also complete a pre-professional skills and internship prep workshop and they are encouraged to complete a resume review with career services staff. In addition, every applicant gets a first-round interview. So while only 32 students received internships in 2016, 110 students received structured career development, and will be stronger applicants to jobs in the future.
WOU Community Internship Application Process
Need ideas to increase experiential learning opportunities on your campus? Access these resources.
For further resources on developing experiential learning opportunities for undergraduates see our Integrating Academic and Career Development toolkit. You’ll find reflection prompts, evaluation rubrics, analyses of the relative impact of different forms of experiential learning, and more. Download the toolkit.
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