As the student body president at Gonzaga University, people often ask me, “What would compel students to remain in the Northwest after graduation?” In a meeting with the student presidents from Eastern Washington University, Whitworth University and Washington State University Spokane, we looked at a similar question: “What do all our students have in common?”
The answer to these questions is one and the same: We would like to see, and would benefit from, more internship opportunities in Spokane.
The case for internships is straightforward, with a variety of benefits both for students and employers alike. First, internships are an invaluable learning experience for anyone entering the modern job market. Students get to apply our academic knowledge to workplace situations, network with leaders in our desired industry and learn how to work with a degree of professionalism necessary for the “real world.”
In Spokane, such opportunities connect students with the community at large. For me personally, interning on a state senate campaign in 2012 introduced me to neighborhoods across the city – from South Hill to Hillyard, West Central to Browne’s Addition. I met countless great people, participated in some fantastic community events and learned a lot about what makes this city a captivating place. I’ve heard similar stories from my friends. With so many of our students living close to campus, internships are a great chance to explore and learn more about parts of the community we don’t normally visit.
Connecting with a local employer also opens doors for students to remain in Spokane after graduation. Research from the National Association of Colleges and Employers suggests that students increasingly consider full-time job offers from the employers that they intern with. When students have to travel out of state for summer internships or post-graduate employment, it’s a missed opportunity for Spokane.
Employers benefit from internship programs as well. Interns offer a fresh perspective for organizations and help them connect with a younger generation. After some time with their new interns, they have a pipeline with new talent: trained and fully understanding the ethics and practices guiding that organization. Any employer hoping to work with our students needs only to reach out to our career centers or representatives. Each of our universities has one, and it’s their job to connect prospective employers with students.
I truly believe in the value of local internship opportunities. I was elected to support our students, and this is an amazing chance to support not only my constituents, but also the future of the Inland Northwest.