Job Front: Internship recruiting signals an economic upturn

03/02/2014 5:40 PM

03/02/2014 11:12 PM

It was shaping up to be an encouraging day for Heather McCoy. The junior UC Davis managerial economics major joined hundreds of students at the university’s winter Internship and Career Fair last week, meeting potential employers, passing out résumés and getting the news that internship-seeking students want to hear.

“They seem like they’re selling internships more than just talking about career opportunities,” McCoy said at UC Davis’ ARC Pavilion in line to talk with recruiters for commercial lender River City Bank.

It’s internship recruiting season across the region and employers are again looking to college campuses to groom promising talent into future employees while reviving so-called “rotation” programs that give interns a wider range of on-the-job experience.

“We’ve seen a resurgence in entry-level rotation programs,” said Marcie Kirk-Holland, project manager at the UC Davis Internship and Career Center. She said an improving economy and the numbers of retiring baby boomers could be contributing to the turnaround.

“What we found is, as the economy took a dip, companies were reluctant to invest” in the programs, Kirk-Holland said, but “now, they’re interested in investing in the future. It’s an early indicator that things are getting better.”

Many of the nearly 140 companies represented at the Feb. 26 fair were offering internships from lenders to wineries and corporate farming operations to biotechnology firms.

That makes sense. Nearly 97 percent of employers said they plan to hire interns and co-op students in 2014, according to preliminary survey results released in February by NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

At the internship fair, those employers included Hayward-based WN Foods. Hanh Nguyen, a project manager and 1999 UC Davis graduate in food science, has worked at the sauce maker since 2000. Her job came after a chance meeting with a WN Foods recruiter outside that year’s career fair.

“We always like to bring in interns. We want to help – especially those in food science,” Nguyen said. “They need help before launching their career to find the way they want to go after they graduate.”

At Monterey Mushrooms, the Watsonville-based mushroom supplier is seeking out students with strong microbiology and other bioscience backgrounds.

Microbiology majors, Rackley said, “are a big turn-on for companies like us,” said supervisor and grower Trevor Rackley. He is a recent UC Davis graduate, and Davis is a fertile recruiting ground for the firm’s interns.

“For the most part, having an internship opportunity gives the student the mindset of working in that career,” Rackley said. “They’re very important and with a start like that, why wouldn’t we want to keep them as employees?”

Sac State hosts career day

The Sacramento State College of Engineering and Computer Science hosts its annual career day for students Friday.

Representatives from nearly 90 companies are slated to attend the fair, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the University Union. Engineering and computer science students can meet with employers to discuss internship and employment opportunities and attend seminars scheduled throughout the day.

At noon, women who found success in the construction industry will be spotlighted in the 2014 Women’s Forum on Construction, held at the University Union’s Hinde Auditorium, and moderated by Sacramento State construction management professor Karen L. Hansen.

“We need to encourage women to enter the technology fields to help meet the future needs of the workforce and to provide diversity in the job market,” said university provost Frederika Harmsen.

For more information on the career event, visit Engineering and Computer Science Career Services’ website at career.ecs.csus.edu.

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Let us hear from you. Is your company hiring? Is your organization hosting a career fair? Starting a networking group? Contact Job Front at dvsmith@sacbee.com.

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