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Royal Dutch Shell Plc .com: Internships provide students, employers chance to “kick tires”

From The Courier (Louisiana)
The Associated Press
July 03. 2006 1:03AM

BATON ROUGE, La. – A summer spent loafing – or even lifeguarding or mowing lawns – could cost students their chance at the jobs they want after graduation.

More and more companies are using summer internships to grow their own crops of employees. University officials don’t see the trend cooling anytime soon.

It’s stoking competition for entry-level jobs, as employers look for newcomers with experience as well as education.

It’s also changing the types of skills that students, many of whom now approach college as a gateway to a career, are expected to master early.

“The popularity of internships has exploded through the roof in the last five years,” said Mary Feduccia, director of LSU’s Career Services.

She said her office has no accurate figures because students often find internships on their own.

About 6 percent of Southern University’s students used the career services center there to get internships this academic year, up from 2 percent five years ago, director Julie Wessinger said.

“There are at least twice that number who get jobs and never say a word to us about it,” Wessinger said. “They just go to work.”

About 84 percent of companies nationwide offer internsips, up from 76 percent, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. And about 46 percent of employers surveyed by NACE said they pay recent graduates more if they’ve held a relevant internship.

Both Feduccia and Wessinger say students are starting internship searches earlier and sometimes pushing back graduation to squeeze more paid work between semesters of classwork.

LSU junior Brittaneay Singleton spent the spring semester in Macon, Ga., using her chemical engineering skills to test the strength and consistency of pulp at a paper mill. She lives in her first apartment, commutes to Graphic Packaging International and says she’s treated like a team member, not a gofer.

She’d take a job there if offered, she said.

Internships are the top recruiting method used by companies surveyed by NACE.

Shell Exploration and Production Co., a major employer in the region, plans to one day hire all new workers from a pool of about 250 interns a year, said Greg Guidry. He heads a 25-person team responsible for recruiting LSU students.

Guidry said an aging work force is forcing petroleum industry leaders to look to college grads. Internships mean “you’re able to learn an awful lot about them, beyond what you could learn in an interview or on a transcript,” he said.

Shell launched its campus recruiting teams, which are largely focused on internships, five years ago.

Amy Horner, head of a much smaller, Baton Rouge-based operation that produces the TV show “Wedding Market,” started using interns heavily about a year and a half ago.

“I didn’t keep them long as interns; I hired them,” Horner said.

A good look and a recruitment pool aren’t the only benefits employers get from interns. They cost less than full-time workers for entry-level work. Companies spend less training new employees. And companies can mold students into better job candidates from an earlier age, said Don Howard, association director of LSU’s career services.

The push is also being fueled by a shift in the way students view college: as a pathway to a good-paying job rather than learning for learning’s sake, he added.

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