AC and WT officials encourage student internships despite pandemic challenges

Local colleges have seen a decline in the number of students pursuing internship opportunities

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - According to WT and Amarillo College, there has been a decline in the number of students pursuing internships since the pandemic started.

Officials from both schools say they are concerned since these kinds of experiences can often be a deciding factor during the hiring process.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, both West Texas A&M University and Amarillo College have seen fewer students applying for internships.

However, school officials believe this is not due to a lack of opportunities.

WT’s associate director of career services, Steve Stellars, says that while virtual formats have been an adjustment for employers and interns, students will still gain the same level of experience that will help them be successful once they graduate and begin their careers.

“Certainly, there’s been some challenges, but you know what I would say is that I mean there’s still opportunities for students. Internships are just a key component to you know making sure that students, once they leave here, they’re successful and that’s what we ultimately want we want them to get the degree but also you know get the job after the degree as well too,” said Sellars. “You know there’s pluses and minuses of it, but you know, I think on the virtual side I mean you can connect with people across the country versus just one location.”

Sellars believes virtual and hybrid internships are here to stay.

“I don’t think virtual is going away all together by any means, you know, and I think a lot of companies have had good experiences with it and so they’re probably gonna keep that so I think in some form or fashion we’re probably always gonna have virtual from here on out would be my guess but, maybe just a combination of in-person and virtual type of things.”

Regardless of format, school officials believe internships provide students not only with experience but also the assurance they need to pursue the right career.

“That experiential learning is crucial to a student’s development to know like ‘hey, this is what I wanna do’, ahead of time before they get into those heavy-hitting classes or even go get their Associate degree or their Bachelor’s degree in something,” said Taylor Bingham, coordinator of career and employment at AC.

Both Sellars and Bingham say professional experience obtained through internships combined with a degree will put students ahead of other job candidates.

“A degree plus some relevant experience in their field, gosh, that just makes them so much more marketable,” said Sellars. “They do an internship, they like it, the employer likes them, and then many times that turns into a full-time job and that’s not uncommon at all and that’s another huge perk of doing an internship.”

“About 65% of jobs are actually hired without ever being posted online or ever being even like posted because they’re hired by networking,” said Bingham.

School officials also understand internships are not feasible for all students, but they say there are other options available such as informational interviews and job shadowing, that will provide them with a similar experience.

This year, Amarillo College launched a new program similar to one at WT called “Earn and Learn,” which provides interns with academic credit or the potential to earn income.

While this new program hasn’t gained much traction yet, AC believes it will take off once the pandemic is over.

“Normally I feel like, with our internship program, it would have just skyrocketed but with the pandemic, it’s just been a little slower going I think from what we wanted but once it’s tapered off, you know, I think it’ll be huge,” said Bingham.

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