Student Interns Hand Out Mixed Grades to Employers

Rating site reveals recruiting potential of intern programs

Most student interns are accustomed to having their performance graded both inside and outside the classroom. But a handful of students at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have turned the tables with their month-old Web site

Students from any school can anonymously post information at the site on a company's dress policy, salary and perks and give the experience an overall rating from one to five stars.

"We received a lot of recognition from upper management," wrote one student, who gave a five-star rating to his internship at Memphis-based FedEx Corp. "I was really surprised by the amount of trust and responsibility my director gave me during the internship."

In contrast, a student intern at a Pittsburgh-based manufacturer said the company "didn't really give me too much to do. I spent a lot of time being bored and just chatting online.", which operates under the name ThinkCo Group, was founded by a group of Carnegie Mellon computer science and business students, many of whom had had poor internship experiences, said Ron Urwongse, the site's president and a Carnegie Mellon junior. But group members had also heard stories from students who had worked in challenging and interesting positions. So they decided to launch a site that lets students know what they're getting into before they sign up for an internship.

The site hopes to eventually add a feature that lets managers review students' resumes.

Julie Yancey, director of worldwide people development at FedEx, said she would definitely use the resume search capability to find candidates, once it's available.

FedEx places a lot of weight in its internship program, she said. The company annually employs about 120 interns worldwide.

In addition to a monthly salary between $3,000 and $4,000, FedEx internship perks include corporate housing, paid travel expenses and assistance with finding social events either at the company or within the local community, said Yancey.

Like at many companies, internships at FedEx often serve as a hiring pipeline, and more than half the company's interns later accept jobs there. To further boost its intern placement rate, this year, FedEx began using former student interns as a recruiting resource during campus job fairs, said Yancey.

Students "typically listen to their peers [rather] than [to] a bureaucrat from a corporation," said Yancey.

Because of the demand for student interns, FedEx offers interns only to those managers who are willing to hire a student after graduation, barring any work ethic or personality issues, Yancey said.

These days, because of the tight skilled-worker pool, the biggest mistake companies can make is in not paying attention to how many interns come back to work for them after graduation, said John Challenger, president and CEO of Chicago-based workforce consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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