Business Monday

Internships key to landing first job out of college

FERNANDO FIGUEREDO
FERNANDO FIGUEREDO

South Florida employers — from small businesses to multinationals — should take a page from the successful Mayor’s Executive Internship Program, established by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Florida International University to help our brightest young students prepare for today’s job market. Internships are not just good for the students who benefit directly; they are good for our entire community.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 63 percent of 2013 college graduates who participated in a paid internship received at least one job offer; only 35 percent of students with no internship experience received job offers.

According to a Knowledge@Wharton report, the average starting salary of graduates with a paid internship was $51,930. For graduates with no internship experience, it was $35,721. The data are clear: Paid internships lead to success in the job market. They are also a wonderful way to retain our community’s best and brightest.

Through the Mayor’s Executive Internship Program, the county accepts 25 to 30 high-achieving FIU students each semester and puts them to work in top-level internship positions throughout county government. The program matches student’s academic education and interests with positions in a number of fields, and in addition provides leadership development activities. Now in its third year, the program has been a success, with the majority of participants finding employment upon graduation from FIU.

The mayor’s program is an example of FIU’s efforts to work with community organizations to prepare students for the workplace challenges of the 21st century’s global economy, whether in government or private industry.

FIU has also worked closely with the Beacon Council’s One Community One Goal initiative, joining the other educational institutions in the county to create the Academic Leaders Council, currently chaired by FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. One of the ALC’s key initiatives is the Talent Development Network, which is scheduled to launch next summer. The network will be a countywide shared-technology infrastructure to facilitate contact between students looking for internships and employers.

At FIU we find that employers recognize the talent of our students and keep coming back to recruit more of them. This fall’s on-campus career fairs attracted a record 206 companies and government agencies from around the nation.

We are proud to provide our students a wide range of opportunities to work with multinationals in a variety of fields such as engineering, finance, and hospitality. It is more important than ever that our local business community support our students as well, by making high-quality internships available to them.

If we work together to develop our home-grown talent, our community will reap the long-term benefit of our efforts to keep that talent right here in South Florida.

Fernando Figueredo, Ph.D., is the director of the Career Services Office at Florida International University. He can be reached at figueref@fiu.edu and through career.fiu.edu.

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