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September 22, 1997

New UCSC internship program works with local businesses

By Francine Tyler

In a unique partnership with its business neighbors, UC Santa Cruz has created a new internship program subsidizing wages for students in the local workforce.

A project of the Career Center, the Professions Training Program matches companies with qualified students, pays part of the students' wages, covers workers' compensation, and takes care of paperwork for each paycheck. Interns are officially employed by the university while they work for the outside employer.

The program is looking for more businesses interested in hiring UCSC interns.

"Employers get skilled, educated workers for a relatively low wage and on a real level participate in developing the local workforce," said Program Coordinator Melissa McClaren-Lighty. "The university gets an opportunity to bridge the gap students face between school and the working world. It's very much a partnership effort between the university and local businesses."

Santa Cruz attorney Gary Thelander hired a UCSC senior as an intern this summer under a pilot version of the Professions Training Program. His intern, Shawntaviya Holmes, performed legal research, conducted investigations, and participated in client interviews, Thelander said.

Having an intern he could rely upon helped Thelander fill a niche in his office, he said. "Plus, there's a certain good feeling from letting someone learn at your side."

In addition to law interns like Holmes, the program provides students with skills in marketing, management, technology, finance, human resources, and other fields. The students earn a minimum wage of $9 an hour for their work, $4.50 of which is subsidized by UC Santa Cruz.

Interns may work a maximum of 15 hours per week during the school year and up to 40 hours per week during the summer. Internships can last for 100 to 400 hours. McClaren-Lighty expects interns to do professional or paraprofessional work, preferably on well-defined projects for which they can take responsibility.

When a business requests a UCSC intern, the university culls the most qualified applicants from its database of approximately 340 and sends a selection of resumes and letters of recommendation to the potential employer, McClaren-Lighty said. The employer may then conduct interviews before deciding whether to hire an intern.

Career advisers help students prepare for the internship by reviewing their resumes, discussing their goals, and teaching workplace skills.

"These are creative, highly motivated, career-oriented candidates that the companies interview--we make sure of that," said McClaren-Lighty, who hopes to place 25 students into internships this fall. "They bring the latest knowledge of their field with them."

Peter Dorman spent his summer at Raytek Inc. As an engineering assistant, he helped the Santa Cruz company develop a better system for labeling the temperature gauges it manufactures. The job required that Dorman analyze data about the current labeling system, find hardware and software to fit the company's specifications, and help generate the purchasing and service contract for the new system.

Dorman felt inspired knowing his work for Raytek was important to the company's well-being. "That responsibility allowed me to have a lot of pride in what I was doing," he said.

The program has already made several placements for the fall. Starting early in the school year, two students will work in the computer center and Life Lab at DeLaveaga Elementary School. In Life Lab, students plant and design gardens to learn about biology, ecology, and other subjects.

Another intern will develop a marketing plan and World Wide Web pages for Spirit of Silk, a Santa Cruz-based producer of hand-dyed silk pillows and scarves. Two additional interns will work for Coast Commercial Bank in Santa Cruz--one in the area of corporate training and another on special projects in association with the chief financial officer.

For more information about the Professions Training Program, call McClaren-Lighty at (408) 459-3973.

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