When even a talented student like Huei Shuan Liu finds it tough to get an internship, you know things are bad.
Liu, a senior at Simmons College, in Boston, has a double major in computer science and biochemistry, a minor in mathematics, a GPA of 3.58, experience doing computer engineering at Motorola Inc., and a recent stint as a software engineering intern at the Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems at Northeastern University—to name a few of her work and internship experiences.
Still, when it came time to locate an internship for this past summer, even though Liu had scoured the Internet and sent out 25 résumés, she received a scant handful of responses last spring.
“Two years ago, it was a lot easier,” Liu said. “I could just find them on Monster.com easily. Nowadays, I dont see that as much.”
Internships are drying up everywhere. The cooperative education program at Northeastern, in Boston, is an indication of how difficult it is to place students in short-term positions: Students of the School of Computer Science who are eligible to be on co-op are now experiencing about 20 percent unemployment, according to Nora Jameson, associate professor of co-operative education. That compares with almost 0 percent in previous years.
And its not just the dearth of technology jobs in general thats causing internships and co-op jobs to fall off. The fact that the talent market is flooded with experienced technology workers means that companies dont have to spend time and resources training entry-level interns or workers. SAS Institute Inc.s recent decision to pull the plug on its boot camp program is a testament to this.
Until early this year, SAS ran the 12-week boot camp to deliver basic training in SAS programming to the 100-or-so interns it took on during the summer. Students would rotate through various jobs before they selected one to settle into.
When the talent market turned into a buyers market, companies such as SAS were sitting pretty. “It was a function of the talent market,” said Jeff Chambers, SAS director of human resources, in Cary, N.C. “With all the experienced hires out on the street, we said, Lets hire for the specific needs we have, rather than hiring lesser-experienced people and training them.”
: Get Creative”>
The fact that theyre now competing with IT professionals who have vastly more experience makes it imperative that students get creative about gaining experience—if not through an internship, then through other means, such as volunteering on technology projects at nonprofits, signing up to assist with faculty research projects, or scoring a job with a universitys help desk or computer lab (see chart, “Alternatives to internships”).
One thing thats appealing about university or college technical positions is that they set the bar low when it comes to the technical skills students are expected to have. Kevin Baradet, network systems director at Cornell Universitys S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management and an eWeek Corporate Partner, said he doesnt even look at the skills of the students he hires to configure laptops, work as consultants in the computer lab or do development work on the schools systems.
At Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, students have ample opportunity to work on research projects before they graduate. Pradeep Khosla, a professor and head of the schools Electrical and Computer Engineering and Information Networking Institute, said employers covet Carnegie Mellon graduates because of the design experience they glean from both course work and research project work.
“In my lab, I have funded projects where masters and Ph.D. students are working, and we recruit undergrads to work side by side with them,” Khosla said. “They even get a paper [published] before they graduate.”
Finally, hiring managers are deeply impressed with the initiative shown by students who volunteer their time to aid nonprofit groups. Microsoft Corp. Senior Technical Recruiter Colleen McCreary said one of the few students to get a coveted Microsoft internship—the company typically receives more than 100,000 résumés a year; in fiscal year 2002, 6,100 of those people were hired—did so in no small part because he decided to help Habitat for Humanity set up a membership database. “We love to see people whove gone above and beyond whats expected of them,” said McCreary, in Charlotte, N.C.
- Lining Up for Jobs
- For This Student, Persistence Pays Off
- Enrollments Fall With the Times