Managing the computer science internship program is one of my duties as a college professor, and the following statements and questions regularly come my way:
- I have a website that will be a great opportunity for an intern.
- What must I do to get an intern?
- A big donor needs an intern. Can you send one in their direction?
- I would like to buy you lunch and talk about our internship opportunities that go unfilled!
- Where are the interns? Are you holding back?
I’m guessing most employers looking for talent can relate because they are noticing a trend: The demand for software engineers is outpacing what colleges and technical schools are producing. In this article, I discuss why you should care and steps you can take to attract new talent through internships.
Why You Should Care
There are three reasons you should care. First, there is competition for talent. Second, interns can produce value. Third, you are building goodwill with the community in general.
There is stiff competition for new software engineers, database administrators, systems analysts, and other information technology trades. The Bureau of Labor and Standards reports that these fields will grow significantly, from 28 to 30 percent.
Disturbing trends in education—such as a recent period of decreased enrollments in four-year computer science and information systems programs—exacerbate this. Further, computer science is the degree among the science and technology disciplines that is most likely to see first-year students drop that major for another . Couple this with the long period of the No Child Left Behind Law, which discouraged elementary and secondary schools from exploring computing , and you quickly realize that the talent pipeline will be limited over the next few years.
Granted, the enrollments in computing courses are starting to turn around, and President Obama has supported more funding for science, technology, engineering, and math curriculums, but the bottom line is that the supply of software engineers is not growing at a pace to keep up with market demand. Your company can mitigate the risk of this upcoming shortage by establishing an internship program.
I have coordinated internships for eight years. The vast majority of the requests I receive for interns are motivated by the need for labor. In other words, employers recognize that internships make a contribution to the bottom line.
Recruiting, whether for experienced craftspeople or entry level, is difficult and expensive. It is particularly painful if a new hire goes sour for any number of reasons. However, I have known several companies that have used their internship programs as successful vehicles for recruitment. These employers have had the opportunity to observe their interns’ potential for ten weeks or more in many cases. Of course, the intern might turn down an offer, but the intern has also had time to determine if the company is also a good fit. If there is a match, it is usually a solid one.
Finally, you are making a significant contribution to the professional and academic communities. Schools recognize and appreciate the staff time and fiscal resources that organizations direct to hosting interns. There is no doubt that an internship on a resume benefits a graduating student and also keeps schools in touch with the needs of industry.
There are also some residual benefits to providing internships. Students remember positive experiences and become walking, talking future advertisements for you.
Elements of a Good Internship Program
I advise interns to look at companies that have an obvious commitment to meaningful internships. When an employer calls and asks how to get a foot in the door, my advice reflects much of