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Internships point Computer Science students toward success

Friday, June 23, 2006
  • Setting up computer labs is part of junior Jay Pritchard's summer internship at the Oregon Public Safety Academy.

  • 2006 grad James Ball interned for Ken Shafer at Agape Computing before being hired full time in May.

 

The road to full-time employment is different for every college student, but junior Jay Pritchard and 2006 graduate James Ball have one thing in common. They’ve both chosen the internship route.

This summer, Pritchard is a paid intern at a sparkling new police and fire fighting training facility next to Corban’s campus. This 200-acre academy includes a 1 ½-mile driving track, three firing ranges, 175 dorm rooms and video-based scenario training. That’s not to mention brand-new computer labs and state-of-the-art networks.

The new state facility needs tech staff, which is where Pritchard comes in. A Ministry major at Corban, he’s also earning a minor in Computer Science. He jumped at his teacher’s invitation for students to tour the facility last spring, where he learned about an opening for a summer intern. He applied, was accepted and began working after finals week.

“This has allowed me to get hands-on experience in a department that I have dreamed of working for years,” Pritchard says. “Honestly, so far  I am enjoying it as much as I thought I would. Everything I need to learn for this job is something I was already eager to learn; the time flies while I’m at work, and every task is a new adventure.”

Pritchard’s work includes everything from setting up new computers and printers to troubleshooting. In six weeks, he’s already established friendships and impressed his supervisors.

“Jay’s really been a godsend for us,” says his boss, Lloyd Lowry. “He’s such a go-getter. Everyone says, ‘Where did you get this guy?”

Lowry adds, “An internship is a win for us, in that we get quality individuals who are somewhat trained at a lower-than-market rate, but it’s also a chance for the student to get real-world experience.”

Although Pritchard’s internship ends this summer, Lowry is already talking about hiring him part-time during the school year, saying the Corban intern will also have the “inside line” on future full-time jobs.

That’s exactly the kind of thing Computer Science Professor Eric Straw is looking for. Since he began teaching at Corban, Straw has been working toward connecting employers with students. Internships, he says, are invaluable in the technology world.

“It’s the difference between talking about climbing the mountain and actually climbing the mountain,” Straw says. “It’s huge for these students. It’s an excellent thing for the college as well. Assuming we place good students out there, it builds our reputation in the community.”

Lowry, for one, is impressed. “The integrity that comes with the type of student who comes out of Corban is very high-value to me,” he says.

Another satisfied employer is Ken Shafer of Agape Computing. A 20-minute drive from campus, this company provides networking and systems support, development and sales to small businesses.

Shafer approached Corban last fall in hopes of developing an ongoing internship program with the school. Straw and adjunct professor Corey Keating connected him with senior James Ball, double-majoring in Computer Science and Math. Initially, Ball signed up for a three-month internship.

“My two major interests in the field of computer science have been programming and networking,” Ball says. “This

internship helped me develop real skills, instead of just theory that I’ve learned in class.”

Almost immediately, Shafer began talking to Ball about full-time work, and, after graduation on May 6, he offered the new alumnus a job. Ball accepted, took a post-graduation trip to Europe and is now settling into his new position.

“Decisions to hire someone are based on many factors besides skills alone,” Shafer says. “James made it very easy. He possesses a great attitude and is willing to take on new challenges.”

Both the State of Oregon and Agape Computing say they’ll return to Corban in search of more interns. That suits everyone involved in this round of internships just fine. Having found success, Ball and Pritchard are quick to urge fellow students to take advantage of similar opportunities.

Ball says an internship is “the only way you’re going to meet people in your profession and get work experience.”

Pritchard adds, “An internship is a great way to get your foot in the door at a place that you really don’t have the skills to work at yet. That’s what’s happened in my case. This is actually the third internship I have had, and I am constantly finding that God seems to view my internship as His opportunity to have me in His school as His own student.”