We are talking to Carla Jordan, director of Career Opportunities at Valdosta State University, about how businesses can establish internships and cooperative education opportunities.
After going through some name changes and mission realignments, Career Opportunities assists VSU’s current students and alumni in all aspects of career services, from career development and counseling, employment opportunities, and experiential learning and cooperative education, which includes internships.
Jordan explained the difference between an internship and cooperative education. “Internships is a shorter relationship with the employer and student. It is designed for employers to have one semester, no more than two, with a student working in their office and supervised by someone in their degree field. And they can be paid or unpaid.”
More than essential “office work,” Jordan said an internship requires job duties related to the student’s academic major and specific learning objectives. “They are taking their classroom experience and applying it in the workplace, and vice versa.”
Coming under the term “experiential learning,” where students “learn by doing,” activities include internships, cooperative education, study abroad, student research, and other hands-on assignments.
An academic-based program, cooperative education has been in existence for many decades. Jordan explained that co-ops span several semesters, and students are paid a competitive wage.
Career Opportunities helps employers design an internship or co-op plan and recruit students to fill the positions.
Jordan said establishing an internship is a lengthy process, and the fall semester is when employers should start the process for an intern the following year.
VSU is moving toward having all students complete experiential learning, including an internship, volunteer opportunities, or a classroom project. “Our goal is to prepare the students to be more employable,” Jordan said.
Jordan said VSU is now a “Hand Shake” campus, a national platform that connects employers across the nation with college students. Administered under the name “Blazin’ Careers,” the program promotes careers fairs, events, workshops, and other career-related sessions.
VSU’s Blazer Ready program teaches various career readiness skills that are often described as “soft skills.” Now re-branded as “Code Red,” the program promotes volunteer opportunities and leadership qualities.
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