Lisle,Illinois ~ Competition for jobs in America is at an all-time high. Not only do most companies require a college degree, but more business leaders are wary of college graduates with no work experience.
Only 16 percent of employers believe that college graduates are very prepared for the workplace, according to a study recently released by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.
According to the survey, 54 percent of employers say finding skilled and knowledgeable employees is difficult, and almost half prefer that college students receive an education that specifically prepares them for the workplace.
Employers want more accountability from higher education institutions so they educate students with more practical learning applications that can be transferred and lead to success within the workplace.
Benedictine University, based in Lisle, Ill., just outside of Chicago, incorporates a required internship or post-classroom training component within many of its degree majors.
Benedictine's Master of Science (M.S.) in Clinical Exercise Physiology program uses a variety of teaching methods, including case studies in combination with laboratories,to better integrate academic information with practical application. The program also requires two internships for further application of learned concepts in the workplace setting.
"Requiring two internships allows a student to explore different options to help determine what aspect of exercise physiology they are most passionate about," said Regina Schurman, administrative program director and student internship coordinator with the M.S. in Clinical Exercise Physiology program. "Internships allow the student to take what they have learned in their coursework and see how it is applied in the real world. It is also an opportunity for them to learn what is required of a professional in field.
"Becoming a proficient practitioner is so much more than just having book knowledge," she added. "The students need to develop the skills required to work with a diverse range of patients. They also need to learn how to interact appropriately with their co-workers, as well as other health care professionals in the process of providing services to their clients and patients. Finally, internships help the students understand the realities of the workplace. Not all tasks that are performed will be the exciting and engaging ones. There will always be paperwork and other mundane tasks that are essential to successful performance of any position."
Benedictine Assistant Professor of Political Science Phil Hardy agreed.
"Professional internships prepare students for life after college," Hardy said. "They reveal the complexities of working in a 'real' environment in ways that we can only imitate in the classroom. Through internships, students are able to interact with individuals who have experience and expertise across a range of respective fields.
"The internship experience nicely compliments the textbook and classroom training that students receive at the University, and provides a glimpse into the natural work setting that they will encounter after finishing college," he added. "Students who have participated in internships tend to be more prepared to enter the workforce than those who have not had an internship experience."
Benedictine has 12 graduate programs and at least 16 undergraduate programs with internship or practical work components. Benedictine impresses upon its faculty the need to reflect Benedictine traditions within their teaching philosophy. Faculty strive to develop a personal relationship with each student and go the extra mile to not only ensure learning is achieved but also that the student is developing holistically.
Coupled with a challenging education that emphasizes hands-on experience, faculty and students believe alumni have a competitive advantage after graduation. To meet employer expectations, students must become engaged in the classroom, participate in service learning (working with outside organizations on professional projects), earn internships and participate with employment outreach, according to Rick Cali, associate dean of Benedictine's College of Business.
Cali, who manages the College of Business's internship program, said internships must be measureable and add value to the student and employer. He encourages students to seek out ways to build experiences that will make them more competitive and attractive to employers.
"Participation in University clubs for leadership development and taking advantage of study abroad opportunities also are experiences that bring value to the student experience," Cali said.
Garnering practical, hands-on experience is the main reason a group of Benedictine students will travel to Cuba during spring break to study international tourism and environmental sustainability.
The University implements a values-based education philosophy within its core curriculum, and strives to challenge students in academia while providing individualized care, which is not found at most colleges with student-teacher ratios higher than the University's ratio of 18:1. Requiring or assisting students with gaining practical experience better prepares students for the workplace.
Other Benedictine undergraduate programs that have internship components include: the Didactic Program in Dietetics, Communication Arts, Social Science, Environmental Science, and Graphic Arts and Design. Graduate programs that have also internship components include the Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) and Master of Public Health.
Although internships are not required to complete all degrees, Benedictine encourages and assists students with training and placement for internal and external internships. Prominent placements include: Steve Montalto (Social Science major), who interned as a 2010-11 scheduling aide in Vice President Joe Biden's office as part of the White House Internship Program; and Finance major Tyler Zachary's 2011 summer internship through the J.P. Morgan Chase Finance Analyst Development Program.
In addition, students can gain practical experience in accounting through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) community service program, and study abroad in China through the University's Asia Institute.
Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 55 undergraduate majors and 15 graduate and four doctoral programs. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country's fastest-growing campuses between 2002-2012 in The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of private nonprofit doctoral institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the fourth consecutive year in 2014. Benedictine University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the sixth largest in the Chicago area in 2014.