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Information Resources Management Association
Advancing the Concepts & Practices of Information Resources Management in Modern Organizations

Guidelines for a Successful Computer Professional Internship Program

Guidelines for a Successful Computer Professional Internship Program
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Author(s): Parviz Partow-Navid (California State University, Los Angeles, USA) and Ludwig Slusky (California State University, Los Angeles, USA)
Copyright: 2005
Pages: 3
Source title: Managing Modern Organizations Through Information Technology
Source Editor(s): Mehdi Khosrow-Pour (Information Resources Management Association, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-822-2.ch101


One commonly heard criticism of business colleges is that graduates are not well prepared for the job market. The concern is that colleges put too much emphasis on theory and not enough on practice. For many years, organizations have called for more relevance in the educational preparation of business graduates to ease students’ transitions from the classroom to workplace (Elkins, 2000). Employers have complained that universities often fail to respond to one of their most basic needs: equipping students with abilities needed to function successfully in a business organization (Fitt and Heverly, 1992). Many universities now try to create opportunities for students to test their existing knowledge and learn new skills in a professional environment. The IS curriculum is very common in universities; it educates students in the foundations and practices of the IS field. However, most of the class work is conceptual in nature and covers issues often stated in generalities. With no tangible examples or an application of these principles, the student is left without a genuine understanding of the principle and what the various applications might be. Application of principles contributes to retention as well as to understanding of a learned concept. Imagine the process of learning how to drive a car by reading a text. While basic knowledge might be acquired, missing the experience denies the student the opportunity to master the skills. Without actual application, the retention of the material is also poor, extending slightly beyond the classroom exit on the day of the final exam. Teachers of subsequent classes are discouraged to find that prerequisite material must be dredged up and rehashed to lay the proper foundation for new studies. One needs only to imagine how this feeling is amplified for a new employer (Van Over and Dangerfield, 1993). Case studies and class projects are frequently used to substitute for real applications. However, case studies are not always practical tools for illustrating issues discussed in lectures. Only few cases are broad enough to illustrate all of the necessary principles; and short cases in general are incomplete and necessitate several assumptions, some of them critical to the development of solution. Thus, while cases offer general help, they do not provide the depth in application of the learned skills. Projects are more beneficial, particularly with real clients, because the analytical process can be directly experienced. However, large classes and project teams do not allow teachers with enough time to work with students individually. In addition, a student on a project team normally experiences only a subset of the total project activities. A typical student criticism at the end of the term is, “I didn’t understand what was going on.” While this disappointment is a problem for the project leader or the instructor, it is a more severe problem for the student who has missed the experience. The end result is that a number of students can graduate from a university with only nominal understanding of real world IT issues. An extra effect of such lack of real-world work experience for many students is low self-confidence. Students occasionally show some fear and hesitation about getting into their first job because they “don’t know anything.” That is why; a major objective of a higher education is to acquire superior work habits and problem-solving skills. Furthermore, students need an adequate amount of direct contacts with the practices common to their major to realize that they have selected the appropriate profession. As a minimum, they should be self-assured that they can perform well on the job. Employers are familiar with the nature and boundaries of education and most of them will allow for some initial training phase before new graduates become productive. A lot of employers assign a probationary period during which time the skill base of new graduates is assessed. In contrast, graduates with real work experience are given preference and often get higher starting salaries. One response from universities has been to build-up internship programs designed to offer experiences more closely tied to possible work settings. Internships and other cooperative education programs have been around for many years. For some time, organizations have used these cooperative education programs to “preview” students as potential employees (Frazee, 1997; Woodward, 1998). However, such programs have not been commonly used by universities to incorporate knowledge and practical experience (Calloway and Beckstead, 1995, Jones, 2002). This underutilization is disturbing in light of changes shaping today’s business environment. Thousands of college students and career changers come into the IT profession every year, but have no clear-cut place to begin. Today’s organizations need access to prospective employees who will take on responsibility, identify a career path and become the future of their profession.

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