This post is inspired after an assignment question: one thing I believe should change in higher education?
I know it seems like a utopia, for all undergraduate students, independent of their discipline, to complete some sort of internship during their college experience. But don’t you agree with me that seems kind of necessary? After I completed my college degree in Colombia, I was fortunate to already have a job in front of me, partially as a result of my graduation project. But I know that not everyone is able to start right away, and not necessarily for having a bad student record, but perhaps for lack of “professional” experience.
When I moved to the U.S., my first intention was to enroll as an entry-level industrial engineer, which ended up not happening, hence one of the reasons why I came back to school, not a bad turn out… I cannot be 100% sure, but I believe that what mostly hurt me was my lack of experience, since I was not applying to jobs related to my short 6-month appointment in Colombia. Most of the entry-level jobs openings I found, actually had a 0-2 or 0-3 years of experience. And honestly, if I am hiring, I would potentially go with that person with some experience, as long as all other qualifications are also met. This is one of the reasons I believe that internships should be mandatory. Especially to “force” students that otherwise would not consider doing one.
Scott Carlson recently wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Everyone Agrees on Value of Apprenticeships. The Question Is How to Pay for Them”. Apprenticeships and internships are not the same, but yet the question applies for both cases. What is needed to have an education/industry relationship that will allow all (or at least the majority) of students to gain experience before finishing their college education? With internships, students benefit by learning on the job, not just theory, and industry benefits by being able to train potential future employees on what they “really” need to learn.
So, I don’t have an answer. Perhaps it is a utopia. Instead I have an advice for students: try to seek out for internships, you will not regret it. And to industry: keep finding ways to offer more opportunities for those looking to have them. For now, internships cannot be required to graduate, but seems like a good point to start brainstorming how we can get there.
– Carlos F. Mantilla P.