Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Internships as a Bridge from Community College into a Career
by Rogers, John Mark, Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2017, 193; 10599191
Abstract (Summary)

Internships, externships, apprenticeships and co-operative education programs are all forms of experiential learning in a workplace setting that community colleges sponsor to enhance learning and career outcomes for their graduates. Previous studies have examined wage gains associated with co-op participation at the baccalaureate level, but no studies have quantified the gains to internship participation at the sub-baccalaureate level.

Guided by a framework that includes psychological and pedagogical perspectives and social, cultural and human capital theory, this study uses a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods to explore the benefits of internship and co-op programs at the sub-baccalaureate level for students and employers. Using a sample of 2,562 students provided by the Florida Education and Training Placement Information Program who graduated between 2006 and 2010, four separate statistical models analyzed the pre- and post-graduation wages for graduates of 10 occupationally-focused Associate of Science and Associate of Applied Science degree programs at community colleges in the State of Florida in order to measure the association between participation in an internship and co-op programs and wages earned in the first ten quarters after graduation. Brief cases at two of the community colleges explore in more depth the nature of the internship experience and reported benefits.

Only 14% of graduates in the sample participated in internships and 6% participated in co-ops, consistent with national averages for community college students, but well below the averages for students at the baccalaureate level. Both pre-graduation wages and internship participation are found to be significant predictors of post-graduate wages and an interaction effect exists between the two predictors. Internship participation is associated with a 10% greater increase in earnings during the 10 quarters after graduation as compared with students who do not participate in internship programs. Moreover, internships and co-op programs can be seen to help students with weaker pre-graduation wage history to partially “catch up” to their peers, although this “catching up” cannot overcome the advantage enjoyed by those students with high pre-graduation wages.

Regarding the qualitative findings, interns and employers perceive that internships provide meaningful human, social and cultural capital benefits to students which may boost their labor market success. Characteristics of successful internship programs include duration and number of hours, placement in a field consistent with a student’s academic major, a rotational structure, active supervision, and clear communication by community college staff with interns and employers before, during and after the internship.

The findings of this study suggest that the benefits of internship sponsorship and participation outweigh the costs for students, employers and colleges. Variation in internship standards and practices across programs and institutions, however, may obscure our understanding of the outcomes described in the study and bear further investigation.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Perna, Laura W.
Commitee: Bailey, Thomas R., Eynon, Diane E.
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Higher Education Management
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 79/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Community college education, Labor economics, Higher education
Keywords: Co-operative education, Community college, Employment, Internships, Statistical analysis, Wages
Publication Number: 10599191
ISBN: 978-0-355-21893-0
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