Fine tuning 'geers jobs
By Sabrina Carinci
Like students in many other faculties, engineering students breaking into an increasingly competitive job market are finding internship programs the perfect way to get their foot in the door.
Employer demands for engineering interns have become quite broad and competitive, said David Harman, an engineering professor and coordinator of the Industry Internship Program at Western.
Western's engineering students are in constant competition for internship positions with the 15 other Canadian universities offering similar programs.
Unlike internships in other fields, however, engineering students are always paid for their work in the Western program, Harman said. "This internship counts towards the four years of experience [required to become a professional engineer]," he said.
Ian Dawes, a fourth-year computer engineering student at Western, began a 16-month internship at Northern Telecom Limited in May 1996 and is returning to the company this summer.
"[This internship] has given me a lot more confidence and a lot of exposure to the business world," he said. He admitted he probably would not have received the summer position had it not been for Western's program.
Companies hiring interns are asking students who apply to have strong leadership, teamwork and problem-solving skills, the desire to continue learning as well as various aptitudes and interests, Harman said.
Romy Buxton, an internship coordinator at IBM, agreed and said the engineering industry is becoming quite competitive. "This year we've hired students from approximately 20 different [institutions]."
Buxton said the company looks for various qualities in their interns including good grades and previous work experience. "We have very high expectations [for all of our employees]."
Donna Smeets, a human resources representative for FAG Bearings Limited, said the company has been hiring interns for many years, however, only a small percentage are hired as full-time staff after the internship.
She added the interview process is lengthy for prospective employees and said it is usually the students at the top of their class who are offered positions.