The value of internships for students

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A look at the University of Tennessee’s business analytics program

College students today will be entering into a tough job market upon graduation. The competition for jobs is fierce, and graduates may find themselves not only vying for jobs against other recent graduates, but also against job seekers who already have a few years of work experience.

That’s why internships are incredibly valuable for students to have on their résumé as they enter the workforce. Internships provide students with real-world experience in their field, allowing them to apply what they’ve learned in school to solve real business problems, while also getting a true sense of how a business operates.

Because of the important role internships can play in shaping one’s career, many colleges and universities have undergraduate and graduate programs that encourage students to participate in internships, and some even help students secure internships by connecting them with companies in their field. One such school is the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, which offers a business analytics program through its College of Business Administration.

To find out more about how the university’s business analytics program prepares students for jobs post-college, as well as some general tips on seeking out internships, we interviewed both a faculty member and a student of the program. The following responses are from Dr. Kenneth Gilbert, the Ralph and Janet Heath Professor of Business, and Department Head of Statistics, Operations and Management Science, and Haley Hubbard, a student obtaining her Master of Science in Business Analytics.

Q: How should students identify the right internships for them?
Gilbert: The key to a good internship is one where you will come away with hands-on, real-life experience in your field and valuable contacts. Any workplace that values the opinion of an intern and provides them with a chance to actually do some of the day-to-day work is one that will pay off. In addition, if an intern can walk away with a few great contacts from an internship, then that’s a successful experience.

Q: In what fields do you see the most success in internships turning into full-time jobs?
Gilbert: Most of the time the fields where internships produce jobs are ones where there is a skills shortage such as technology, business analytics, big data, supply chain and health care. However, if an intern is astute, they can pinpoint a need within almost any company and do their best to fill that need.

Q: Tell us about your business analytics program. How does UT ensure that their students are getting matched to internships that are worth their time?
Gilbert: The business analytics program at UT partners throughout the school year with a wide variety of companies who value big data and what it means to the success of their organization. The students in the program are being given consistent access to these companies throughout the year. Many of the students are actually helping these companies with their big data projects. The relationship between UT and the companies are very close, and the companies count on UT to provide them with talent for not only internships but for full-time employees. In some cases, companies are even considering establishing an office near the university in order to gain access to the students.

UT has a robust program where every Friday afternoon, companies will come to the campus to talk about their organizations and their internship opportunities. It has become so popular with corporations that new timeslots are being added to assure that more businesses can participate. In addition, second-year students will educate new students on their internship experiences and offer advice.

Q: How successful are students who participate in this program in finding internships and jobs?
Gilbert: Due to the need for skilled workers in big data and the top ranked business analytics program at UT, 100 percent of the UT business analytics students get internships and 100 percent get jobs.

Q: What did you learn from the internship program at UT? Do you feel prepared to enter the workforce?
Hubbard: UT’s Master of Science in Business Analytics program has dedicated professionals assisting students with their career search. They invite companies to campus to participate in the Business Analytics Seminar series, host a Business Analytics forum and conference, and prepare students to both professionally present themselves and understand the many resources available for their search.

Last year, when I was looking for an internship, I took advantage of all the resources offered by the program and talked to as many employers as possible. UT gave me the tools I needed to succeed, so I was well-equipped to find a position that was a good fit for me. I attended information sessions, seminars, forums, the Business Analytics Conference and career fairs. Additionally, I applied to positions with companies that were not affiliated with UT but were interested in hiring business analytics students. After many conversations and interviews, both successful and unsuccessful, I landed a position that seemed to fit my background and provide the challenge I was seeking in an internship.

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to learn from some very bright analytics professionals. They provided the support I needed to be successful in my position and an open environment for me to share my ideas and perspectives, a vital characteristic in a rapidly growing field. I learned through this experience that I had a lot to learn and, yet, a lot to offer. The education I am receiving at UT has helped me develop a fresh perspective that was well received in the field. I feel confident entering the workforce knowing that I have a unique set of tools in my tool belt.

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