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An internship program at a local college is offering students the opportunity to get on-the-job experience even before they receive their degrees.
Pamela Larkin, professor of business studies at Jefferson Community and Technical College Shelby County, said students in the Office Systems Technology program are required to participate in a semester of "real world" job experience before they can graduate.
Larkin said the experience of having an internship is an important part of students' education.
"The goal of the internship is to provide the opportunity to apply acquired skills in a realistic setting, enhancing the transition from school to work," she said.
The Office Systems Technology program is designed to prepare students to work in an office environment of people, process, and technologies.
Currently there are about 25 students in the Office Systems Technology program at JCTCS. Before graduating each of the students will have to complete a semester long internship at a local business.
Larkin has been over the program for 13 years. During that time, office staff said many students have successfully transitioned into the job market because of the internship.
The students, who do not get paid for the internship, have to work up to 135 hours at their assigned place of work.
Students in the program work at a variety of business and organizations in the community. The students are assigned to jobs - from paralegal to clerical -- that will be most like the occupation they would like to do upon graduation.
Each week their supervisor evaluates the interns. The supervisor's remarks are then given to Larkin to used in the students performance evaluation.
Students in the program said the experience has helped them prepare for their future vocation.
Julie Connor worked in local factories for 17 years before she decided to go back to school and get her associate's degree. Connor, 48, said she knew what kind of job she wanted, but lacked a degree and experience.
She said the program is helping her get both.
"It has helped me realize what is expected of me when I'm in this (line of work)," she said.
Connor, who is interning at Bowersox Vision Center, said she would like to work in medical insurance or a medical office when she graduates. She said the degree and the experience she is receiving will help her get her foot in the door.