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5 Questions to Matina Wagner, Internship and Experiential Learning Coordinator

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Polk State College is proud to offer rewarding and robust internship and experiential learning opportunities that allow students to gain valuable experiences and develop skills while preparing for their careers.

Students benefit from Polk State’s strong community ties and partners who provide internship and career opportunities, including LEGOLAND Florida Resort, Publix, Florida’s Natural, and more. The College’s Virtual Career Center serves as a hub for internships and job opportunities, and the College’s Internship and Experiential Learning Coordinator helps students write resumes and connect with employers. .

Matina Wagner was the Internship and Experiential Learning Coordinator for seven years and is the go-to for students looking for internship opportunities that will enhance their skills and resume. She recently spoke with Polk News about the importance of internships and how students can get started.

If there was one thing you would like students to understand at the start of their career, what would it be?

I would like all students to know that education is only part of what employers are looking for. Most companies are looking for candidates who have a working knowledge of their field. Experience doesn’t always have to come from a job; it can be acquired through volunteering projects, internships and experiential learning. Companies want to hire candidates who can get started and immediately become productive team members. The connections and trust these opportunities provide are invaluable.

How do internships benefit students?

Students gain real work experience and expand their professional network while completing internships. Trainees can learn, develop and apply skills while improving their skills. Completing an internship provides students with the opportunity to explore different careers, professions, and organizations. Most internships are paid either by the hour, or by the project, with a stipend, or by obtaining a scholarship after the successful completion of the experience. In addition, students can practice the skills and apply the knowledge acquired in their courses. Statistically, students who do internships while in college earn more than students who wait to apply for jobs after graduation. And that’s not all; more than half of interns receive job offers from the companies where they did their internship!

What types of internships are available?

There are all kinds of internships – from child care to aerospace, from engineering to culinary arts, and from digital design to criminal justice. Two areas in which it can be difficult to find internships are education and health. There are many jobs in these fields, but to become certified in these programs, there are specific guidelines for required experiences. Fortunately, our health care and elementary education programs incorporate these experiences into the curriculum, so these students will graduate from college with the practical knowledge required. Education and health care students should always plan to do internships, but be aware that they will not do internships as doctors, nurses or teachers. However, to be successful in most fields, students must develop excellent communication and customer service skills which can be acquired through internships.

When should a student plan to complete an internship?

The earliest would be best. There are even internships for high school students. I encourage students to start their career development before starting college. Decide what you want to do and how you are going to get there. Think about the knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences required and plan to start developing yours while you take courses. Most students tend to wait until they are almost out of college before considering an internship, and that’s usually too late. I work with students of all levels. Usually, freshmen and sophomores are looking for work experience and skill development. While juniors and seniors generally want to check out companies to see if they are suitable and to expand their professional contacts. My advice is to start looking in the fall of freshman year for a summer internship. For most internships, students should have their resume polished and ready to apply at least one semester before their start date.

It’s hard for a college graduate with a 4.0 and no experience to get hired, even in entry-level positions. To combat this, many colleges now require students to complete internships and/or service hours before graduation. Remember that when you apply for a job, there is usually competition for the position. If most of the other candidates have experience, who do you think they will hire?

How to start looking for an internship?

Students should email their resume to Students who have not prepared a CV can request an internship worksheet by email or by visiting Career Services to receive assistance in developing a CV. Once a student’s resume is received and finalized, I will ensure that it is uploaded to Handshake, our virtual career center, and schedule an appointment to discuss internship and career goals. There are all types of experiences and internships that can help students build skills. Please note that many companies have GPA requirements for internships, so getting high marks is also important.

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