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  • Program Provides Paid Internships for Idaho State Students

    January 13, 2020 | By NACE Staff

    A female intern gains work experience via the Idaho State
University (ISU) Career Path Internship (CPI) program.

    TAGS: best practices, internships, program development, nace insights

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

    In 2011, Idaho State University (ISU) launched its Career Path Internship (CPI) program to enable students to work as paid interns in their field of study. Each year, ISU invests approximately $2 million to provide career- and major-related paid internships to its students.

    These internships—which can take place on campus or in the local community—provide students with valuable hands-on experience while enhancing their job-readiness skills.

    “Since its inception, the CPI program has provided more than 7,000 internships to ISU students,” explains Emily Jahsman, associate director of the ISU Career Center.

    “The past three years, we have averaged 1,000 internships annually and have even been able to gain $500,000 of annual funding from our state legislature to help support these opportunities.”

    Jahsman explains that the CPI program was created by ISU’s past president. The pilot program started with $250,000.

    “He was seeing a lot of entry-level positions that required a minimum of two years of experience,” Jahsman notes.

    “He knew that, without experience, our students were at a disadvantage in the job market. During the first few years of the CPI program, we only had on-campus internships. Faculty and campus staff got behind the program and saw that it was working out very well for the students and the university. It gained momentum and we had significant growth over the first four years.”

    After the fourth year, she points out, the annual funds reached $1.8 million.

    “We went to the state legislature and showed them what we had been able to do, and they pledged an additional $500,000 per year,” Jahsman says.

    To qualify for the CPI program, potential participants must be current ISU students enrolled full time and in good academic standing. All CPI positions are funded by the university: undergraduates receive $9/hour, while graduate/post-baccalaureate students are paid $11/hour.

    “However, in some fields, such as engineering, we can’t get students to work for $9 an hour, so we will have the host organization supplement the wage,” Jahsman points out.

    She says that, while it can be challenging, the CPI program works with all colleges and divisions at ISU.

    “There’s a wide variety of areas in which we can have our students work, which makes it so that we are not pigeon-holed,” Jahsman explains.

    “Pocatello’s regional area has about 85,000 people. Having that diversity of on-campus and off-campus internships gives our students more opportunities. We have a lot of flexibility with our program, which is sometimes hard to manage because there are a lot of moving parts, but it’s also a reason why it has been so widely successful and appreciated.” 

    To spark interest among local employers, Jahsman presented at a leadership conference with 300 business attendees, promoting the CPI program and providing employers with the steps to apply to host an internship. The CPI program also uses an online form that organizations can fill out and indicate their interest and area of work for interns. ISU reviews the submissions to make sure the internships fit the program and then try to secure funding for positions and work with the organizations to get liability agreements.

    In addition, ISU works with organizations that have more developed and robust internal internship programs. For example, ISU’s CPI program partners with the Idaho National Laboratory.

    “We might pay for the interns’ spring semester using CPI funds and, in the summer, our interns will move into the Idaho National Laboratory’s internal internship program,” Jahsman explains.

    She says that many students working in CPI positions have gone on to work as full-time employees upon graduation. The program has additional benefits. For example, an advantage of the on-campus internships is that they remove the barrier of interns needing a car or reliable transportation to work. Furthermore, over the past eight years, the retention rates for students who are part of the CPI program are almost 13 percent higher than for those who are not, and GPAs for CPI participants are higher.

    Jahsman offers several tips for others looking to start a similar program:

    • Have dedicated staff manage the program—The CPI program didn’t have a full-time staff member managing it until its fourth year. Currently, it has two full-time positions and it is adding a full-time external internship coordinator, which will allow it to be more responsive and flexible. As Jahsman notes—especially with the scope of ISU’s CPI program—there are a lot of moving parts that need to be addressed and maintained.
    • Tap into the experience and work of others—When Jahsman started at ISU four years ago, rather than reinventing the wheel, she did extensive research to see what other schools were doing with similar programs. She stresses that this research and outreach to others doing this work is an ongoing activity.  

    “Also, define your goals from the start,” Jahsman adds.

    “Identify your objectives and determine how you are going to get there. We did not do that, and we found that trying to turn a large ship already in motion is a lot harder than just starting out pointed in the right direction.”

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