Worcester Business Journal
By Eileen Kennedy
Worcester Business Journal Staff Writer
August 31, 2009
When employers are looking for workers, they look for those with on-the-job experience, the right education and professional references.
That’s why no matter what industry is involved, internships can help future job seekers get those full-time permanent positions. It’s an opportunity for students to show that they can successfully apply their classroom knowledge and function well in a work atmosphere.
After all, it is one thing to apply the theories you’ve learned in textbooks to the real world, but fitting into the culture of a workplace can be much trickier.
And that’s the whole point of this year’s Internship Challenge by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center — which matched 104 interns with 59 companies — and provided interns with hands-on experience while also providing employers with potential hires after graduation.
The internship program was the result of a formal study conducted right after the Life Sciences Center started up in June 2008, according Susan Windham- Bannister, its president and CEO.
“We learned that executives wanted to see more entry-level life science employees that are ready to work in a lab and come in and hit the ground running,” she said.
The interns are paid $4,800 for eight weeks and the companies must provide a dedicated mentor and a meaningful opportunity that relates to intern’s school work.
Twenty-two students from five Worcester colleges, and a 23rd from Framingham State College, were among the 104 selected from 500 internship applicants, according to Windham-Bannister.
Fifty-nine companies across the state chose to participate, including six in Worcester, and one each in Clinton and Gardner. MetroWest was also represented with one company each in Ashland, Holliston, Hopkinton, Milford and Marlborough.
For David Robinson, CEO of Gardner’s New England Peptide, an internship is important in several ways.
“I recall the benefit to me, as I was exploring different career options,” he said of his years at Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School. “It was fundamental in helping me, which is one of the reasons I choose to invest in interns.”
But it’s more than that.
“I think these interns get exposed to an exciting niche in the life sciences sector,” he said. “It’s nice for them to have that option in North Central Massachusetts.”
Participating companies like New England Peptide also get to see a potential employee up close and on the job, watching how quickly they learn, and how they work independently and as a part of a team.
“For us as a growing organization, one of the attributes we look for is the cultural fit,” Robinson said.
Edward Pominville, who graduated with a biology degree from Worcester State College in December, is New England Peptide’s intern.
And there appears to be a mutual attraction. Pominville said he got to do meaningful work right away and feels part of the team.
“He struck us during his initial interview as having an impressive capacity to learn,” Robinson said. “Over the course of the internship he became a success story in relatively quick order.”
Windham-Bannister says this is the beginning of a wonderful program: “This is really important — that we provide workforce development opportunities so that as companies grow they have a top workforce from which to draw.”
The center will also be tracking the interns to see how many like Pominville transition to full-time employment and how many end up in the life sciences.
“That says more about the program and its impact than anything I could ever say,” she said.