The Value of Internships in Process Technology

The transformation of raw materials into useful everyday products — be they building materials or jet fuel, metals or plastics — relies on the process of Process Technology. In this week’s Episode, we revisit the College of the Mainland, in Texas City, Texas, where we originally met student Zachary Bundy, who is enrolled in the college’s two-year Process Technology Associate’s degree program. In addition to classroom instruction, Zachary completed 300 hours of internship work experience — or as he puts it, a “two or three-month long interview that gives [the employer] the chance to get to really get to know [the employee].” The internship experience also gave Zachary a chance to earn a good salary — better than $30 an hour — and get a crash course in this challenging field.

ATETV adviser Jerry Duncan of the Center for the Advancement of Process Technology (CAPT) at the College of the Mainland, agrees that internships provide a great opportunity for student and employer alike. “Internships allow the student to actually experience what it’s like to be a process technician, and allow the company the opportunity to see how a student performs as a potential employee,” he notes, adding that internships are becoming more popular in the process industries.

Here, Jerry answered some questions for us about internships.

Why should a student pursue an internship?

Internships are a great educational experience. The student gets to experience the job environment and perform the job under the guidance of a experienced employees. Process technology programs can impart the technical knowledge of the job in the classroom, but they cannot impart what it is like to live and work the job on a daily basis. Internships, therefore, give students insights into their future careers. In some cases this furthers their enthusiasm to finish their degrees. In other cases, some students actually decide not to enter the field.

Will an internship extend a student’s graduation date?

This depends on the employer’s requirements. Many of the employers will work with the college to minimize the impact of the internship on the graduation date. In some areas, such as offshore work, students work two weeks on and two weeks off. This makes it difficult for the student to attend classes during the internship.

How many Process Technology students get internships?

National data from over 30 Process Technology programs shows that around 40 percent of all Process Technology graduates participate in some type of intern experience. This may range from a full semester’s work to several weeks during a semester or summer break. Internships are heavily dependent on the partnership the community college forms with their local industries. Some colleges offer no internships, while others have all of their students participate in an internship program. In many programs, students must apply and pass a test, as well as an interview, to be accepted into an internship program.

Do all employers of Process Technology students offer internships?

Unfortunately, they do not. Business concerns, future hiring trends, and the company culture all play roles in internship offerings. There are many more job openings than there are Process Technology graduates. Naturally every company wants to hire the “best” student. An internship gives the company an opportunity to recruit and retain the best students. As a result, more and more companies are jumping on the internship band wagon. The original internship program at the College of the Mainland started out with only two internships. Now we are up to 28 and another company has just contacted us about offering internships to an additional 20 students each year.

Will students get hired after completing their internships?

Most likely, they will be hired, although it is not a guarantee. Employers often treat an internship as an extended job interview. Employers are looking for people who have the required technical knowledge and the right interpersonal skills for the company. Sometimes it just does not work out. Perhaps the student finds out they do not like the working conditions, the culture of the company, or perhaps they decide to continue their education.

What do you tell students who do not get hired?

It is not the end of the world. First and foremost, an internship is an educational experience. I tell them that they have been able to actually experience what it is like to work in the Process Technology industry and this gives them an advantage over all of the other students that did not get an internship opportunity. I also tell them that this can be used to their advantage in future job interviews, since prospective employers will know that they had this valuable experience.

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