Internships can double community college students' chances of landing a relevant job

The benefits of internships for bachelor's degree recipients is well-established, but a recent survey highlights how degree-relevant internships may improve outcomes for community college students too, Ashley Artrip and Zac Auter write for Gallup.

Although two-thirds of community college students work while in school, not every work experience will improve their career outcomes, Artrip and Auter write. Degree-relevant work experience, however, can double a community college graduate's chance of finding a good job quickly after college, finds the Gallup-Strada Associate Degree Graduate Study.

To conduct the survey, researchers at Gallup surveyed 2,548 U.S. adults whose highest level of education was an associate degree.

According to the study, students with relevant work experience were more than twice as likely to land a job immediately after graduation (40%) than those who did not have relevant work experience (16%).

Students with relevant work experience are also more likely to land jobs that are "completely related" to their studies. Nearly two-thirds of graduates who had an internship work in a profession related to their academic studies, whereas less than a third of those without found a degree-relevant job.

Related: How community colleges can help close the soft skills training gap

And graduates working in degree-relevant careers are more likely feel engaged at work, Artrip and Auter write. About 49% of graduates in a degree-relevant career feel engaged at work, compared to 19% of graduates in an unrelated career.

Community college students who complete a relevant internship improve their career outcomes, but more than half of the survey respondents did not have any relevant work experience during school, Artrip and Auter write.

As more students pursue higher education with career outcomes in mind, some community colleges are finding ways to incorporate work experience into the academic curriculum.

Southwest Tennessee Community College, for example, collaborated with local companies to develop a customized, five-week Industrial Readiness Training Program to prepare students for the workforce.

By working with employers, Southwest enabled the manufacturing firms to screen candidates based on their course performance instead of their resumes and interview skills, which is more likely to reflect their ability to thrive in the job, writes Megan Adams, a practice manager at EAB.

Since it was established in 2012, the training program has achieved a job placement rate of nearly 80%, which reflects the close alignment of the program's curriculum with local employer skill needs, Adams writes (Artrip/Auter, Gallup, 1/18).

Read more: How one CC kept jobs local while earning an extra $1 million


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