August 19, 2011

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) 2011 “Internship & Co-op Survey,” about 40 percent of employers’ entry-level hires from the class of 2010 derived from the companies’ internship programs. Participating employers also reported converting nearly 58 percent of their interns into full-time hires, the highest conversion rate since NACE initiated the survey nearly a decade ago.

Recognizing the benefits of internships, LSU College of Engineering (CoE) undergraduate and graduate students are taking full advantage of internships this summer. As a summer intern at Schlumberger, a global leader in the oilfield industry, chemical engineering Ph.D. student, Qiang Sheng, divides his time between honing his engineering skills and networking with industry professionals from Europe, Africa and Asia. His current project involves developing a new model to simulate oil and gas production network systems.   

“I am learning a lot through this internship,” said Sheng, a native of China. “First, an intern needs to identify his strengths, interests and values. I really enjoy my project because of the challenges involved. It is a completely new area, so I have to start from scratch. Research experience from graduate school really helps me understand the project well. … I am proud to be a part of [it].”

In addition to providing a hands-on opportunity for students to improve their technical skills, internships offer a practical and professional environment where they can develop soft skills. Knowing how to make a good impression, communicate with others and be an organized and respected employee are important real-world skills for professionals.

“Working in industry is different from school life,” said electrical engineering Ph.D. student, Oleksadr Dobzhanskyi, a summer intern at the Elliott Ebara Group, a global provider of turbo-machinery for the oil, gas and refining industries. “You are expected to show results in a short time. You have to able to troubleshoot. … You have to be professional in how you dress, how you manage your time, and how you get along with people who work with you.”

Dobzhanskyi learned of his current internship at the LSU Career Expo, the university’s largest recruiting event, and was immediately interested because of possible employment in Europe upon completion of the internship. As a summer intern at the company’s Plaquemine, La. facility, the Ukraine native works with steam compressors and turbines, coupled with electrical generators and analyzes the chemical plant’s technological processes.

Christine Woodfield, a senior in mechanical engineering with minors in French and international studies, has interned with BASF for the past three summers. While Woodfield’s first internship was at the company’s Geismar, La. plant, she soon inquired about international opportunities. Last summer, Woodfield worked in the Special Amines plant at the BASF headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany. She returned to Ludwigshafen this summer and worked in the Global Office for Engineering and Maintenance in project engineering. Woodfield’s group was responsible for building a new plant in Korea.

“My favorite part of the internships has always been to learn more about the chemical processes and the mechanical equipment involved and the feeling that I have added value to my group. Everyone I have worked with has been supportive and encouraging, never failing to offer their time to answer my questions,” said Woodfield. 

For Woodfield, the social experience of her internship is also important. “Every weekend, the interns have plans to visit the little towns in the evening for their annual village festivals,” said Woodfield. “Certainly living far away from friends and family can be difficult at times, but it has been a great experience of widening my horizons and becoming more independent and adaptive in these new situations.”

Securing the internship is only the first step for many students. Sheng suggests that in order to take full advantage of the opportunity, “an intern needs to request more responsibility, ask questions about his or her project and related knowledge, and initiate conversations with other employees.”

According to 2010 NACE data, graduates who participated in an internship program are more likely to have received a job offer than their peers who decided to forgo the experience. And for most students, including chemical engineering Ph.D. student and Procter & Gamble summer intern, Yijie Shen, that is the most important goal.

“An internship helps you know what industry is doing and understand what industry needs. This ultimately helps you get a full-time job,” said Shen.

Like Dobzhanskyi, many engineering and construction management students secure internship opportunities through events like the Career Expo, Construction Interviewing Day and Careers2Geaux. In 2010-2011, through both on-campus interviewing and on-campus recruiting events, 145 organizations recruited engineering and construction management students for internships and co-op opportunities.

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For more information, contact Cassie Arceneaux, College of Engineering, carcen6@lsu.edu or (225) 578-0092.



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