Higher Education

EXPERIENCE Before Your Graduate

College students in DeKalb County are getting a head start in the working world through internships. Businesses, nonprofits, a college and university are offering a wealth of opportunities for young people to build skills. Businesses, too, are reaping the rewards as they help develop a valuable workforce.

The DeKalb County Nonprofit Partnership, under the auspices of the DeKalb County Community Foundation, is one example. It partners with various departments at Northern Illinois University, such as the Center for Nonprofit and NGO Studies and Career Services, as well as with partnership members, to provide internships at DeKalb County nonprofits.

Students, who are usually juniors or seniors, acquire experience they can put on their resumes while nonprofit organizations benefit from each intern’s 120 hours of service during the semester. Another partner, the Douglas C. and Lynn M. Roberts Family Foundation, provides $575 stipends for interns.

Ben Bingle, director of DCNP, said the internship program has been hugely successful for both students and nonprofits alike. It is estimated that more than 18,400 internship service hours have been completed through the program to date. That translates to $454,296 in economic impact when multiplied by the value of volunteer time per hour in Illinois, which is $24.69.

Interns are matched with DCNP members in the fall and spring. An orientation is held to acquaint intern supervisors with the program, requirements and expectations. Intern resumes and cover letters are provided to the supervisors who rank the interns in preferential order. Interns also rank the

organizations where they would like to work. After interviews between the supervisor and interns take place, the students and supervisors complete a second round of ranking each other. Final placements are assigned based on those rankings and other factors such as schedules and availability.

Bingle said some interns give credit to their internship for launching their careers.

“We have alums of the program who identify the internship as the reason why they got their first job offer,” Bingle said. “And some organizations have hired their former interns on as full-time employees right here in DeKalb County.”

Catherine Doederlein, director of Internships and External Relations in Career Services at Northern Illinois University, is also pleased with the program.

“I have had the privilege of working with the DCNP Internship program since its inception, and I can say it’s a truly unique program and one I’m proud to be involved with each semester,” Doederlein said. “NIU is very lucky to have this partnership and has great appreciation for the work they do in facilitating the program for our local nonprofit community.”

She also is grateful for the Douglas C. and Lynn M. Roberts Family Foundation, for its support of the program.

“We’re incredibly thankful for their continued tremendous generosity, which makes it possible for our students to get this great professional development exposure,” she said.

Kishwaukee College is another important source of internships in the county. For fiscal year 2018, more than 50 students participated in internships.

“All programs encourage students to take advantage of an internship to get real world, hands-on experiences beyond the classroom,” said Kayte Hamel, executive director, College Relations and Kishwaukee College Foundation.

Programs with internship opportunities include computer-aided drafting, computer information system, criminal justice, horticulture, electronics, diesel power technology and nursing.

Besides gaining workplace experience in their fields, there are many other benefits to doing an internship. Students can see how their classroom experience translates in to the real work world, try out a career before they graduate, network with professionals in their fields and connect with mentors and build references.

There also are more tangible benefits to landing an internship. The college’s website notes that on average, college graduates who have an internship on their resume are 12 percent more likely to be hired and earn $7,000 more than graduates who did not.

Hamel said internships provide students with opportunities to work for local businesses in environments related to their major or program area. Internships are also a great opportunity for businesses to expand and develop their workforce.

There were 5,116 credit-seeking students and 754 noncredit students enrolled in Kishwaukee College in fiscal year 2018. The college was founded in 1968 and offers 19 technical programs.