09:04 AM

Grant allows more paid internships to help students engage in industry


No matter what a college student's interests may be, it's important to consider what will come after graduation. Higher education is about growing, meeting new people, and experiencing life from another perspective, but ultimately, it's about preparing for a career path and life after school. That's why students at University of Houston-Clear Lake hear the word "internship" used frequently during their educational journey.

UH-Clear Lake considers internship opportunities to be critical for student success. The Office of Strategic Partnerships, the Office of Sponsored Programs, and Career Services applied in January to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for funds to convert unpaid internships into what students need most- an internship that offers hands-on experience, networking opportunities, and a paycheck. A $250,000 grant has been awarded to select spring 2022 interns in high-demand fields including accounting, computer science/related fields, education, mechanical engineering and social work.

"The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's grant, utilizing funds from the Governor's Emergency Education Grant pool, is truly an investment in UHCL students," said UHCL Chief Strategy Officer Kevin Wooten, who is also the grant's principal investigator. "These funds are designed to provide relief from pandemic related issues and to ensure that Texas students attain high-value credentials."

Wooten added that the fact that the Coordinating Board chose UHCL as one of the recipients is a testament to the university's high-quality programs, its graduates, and the region's need for specific skills in the areas of secondary education, engineering, computer science, social work, accounting, and information technology.

Funding began in late May and will continue through August.

"We think of internships at large companies that are well paid, but there are so many smaller businesses and nonprofits that do great work and would love to have an intern, but can't because it's not in their budget," said Director of Career Services Chuck Crocker. "This kind of grant money is a real benefit to those businesses and nonprofits as well affording our students a great experience and opportunity."

Crocker said he was helping prepare students by perfecting both resumes and interviewing skills, and that he, along with Internship Programs Coordinator in the Office of Strategic Partnerships Bernadina Streeter and the deans of all four colleges have been networking in the community to find partners for student internship placements.

Streeter said that internships could be life-changing experiences for students.

"Networking, getting better connected and seeing the industry a student is entering firsthand- and getting paid for it can make the difference for a student," she said. "Many students work in retail or in restaurants because they need money. These opportunities allow students to be paid while focusing their energy on their chosen field of study and it's a better use of their time. Often, we have students who do internships and then are later hired by that company."

Streeter said that to date, UHCL students can be placed in internships with numerous companies across the industries designated in the grant, including AtLink, a software company, HCA Healthcare, BJSS, an information technology company.

"We are working to establish more partnerships," Streeter said. "We have more companies in the pipeline and our goal is to get as many as we can on board."

She added that students need to take advantage of these opportunities, and realize the power of the word "yes."

"Be open to the possibilities," she said. "If you're always waiting to be 'ready,' you'll never be ready. You just need to engage, and remember we are all here to help. Everyone is learning and growing at this time, and everyone seems to think others are doing better than they are. But the truth is, we all learn on the job. Internships are for learning, growing and being mentored by professionals in your field, and they're a great way to get engaged in your field."

To find out more about paid internship opportunities with community partners, go online.