April 16, 2016
Graduation can be an exciting, but scary time for college seniors. As the time grows closer for students to enter the professional world and leave their university days behind, many questions and concerns arise. Did I make the most of my college experience? Will I attend grad school? Accept a full-time job? How will I find employment opportunities? I spent all this time in school…now, what? While these questions come along with difficult decisions, Western Kentucky University does the most that they can do to help students answer these questions. In the WKU Engineering Department, engineering faculty try their best to help students make the most of their college experience and prepare for life after graduation.
While many employment opportunities are available to engineering students, they must also keep in mind that they are entering a competitive field. One of the best ways to secure a job after graduation is to gain some industry experience while still in school. WKU’s Engineering Industrial Partnership Coordinator, Debbie Berry makes sure that students can take advantage of such opportunities.
On any given day, Debbie Berry may receive word of three or more job opportunities. She then makes these opportunities known to students—during the 2015-16 academic year alone, she has sent out over 100 emails with employment opportunities for students. These include internships, co-op positions, and part-time or full-time jobs. Since gaining hands-on industry experience is so important for engineering students to make themselves marketable, such job openings are valuable. Past students have interned for companies including General Motors, Logan Aluminum, Pure Power Technologies, Berry Plastics, among many others. And they aren’t just limited to local companies. While regional partnerships are incredibly helpful, WKU students can and have extended their scope to work for national companies. Several Western students have completed one or more internships with NASA.
Over 100 students report their work experiences to the engineering department each year. While not all of the data is available, Ms. Berry would estimate that about 90% of engineering students graduate with an industry work experience under their belt. Much of this is thanks to Western’s Industrial Partnership Program. Connecting the university and currently 14 regional companies, this partnership benefits both the community and students. Companies pay $5000 a year to become an industrial partner and, in return, they get the chance to meet face-to-face with potential interns and employees. The fee helps pay for the industrial partnership program itself, student ambassador scholarships, and many of the networking events the engineering department offers.
Some of these events include industry showcases, career fairs, project expositions, resume workshops, and special industry partner-only events. WKU Engineering hosts more than ten showcase events each year, where students can come to learn about different industries and internships they may offer. The department also hosts one Dinnerview event per semester, where industry partners can attend to meet some of WKU’s top engineering students. After getting the chance to network, attendees will eat dinner together, engage in professional development table talks, and have the chance to share resumes. These events are special in that they allow employers to meet face-to-face with potential employees and give students the chance to see what opportunities are out there for them. Not only do students and companies benefit from such events through the Industrial Partnership, but the whole community of Bowling Green is allowed to flourish through increased community interaction and involvement.
For engineering students looking for internships and jobs, the best thing to do is get involved. Hands-on experiences are some of the most impressive bullet points on a resume. Even if you have not yet completed an internship or co-op, class projects can serve as prime examples of real engineering experience. Skills and qualifications that employers are looking for, such as teamwork, leadership, presentation skills, and knowledge of engineering topics, can also help seal the deal. For engineering students, there are numerous jobs out there, and the Engineering Department is available to help throughout the whole process—from resume editing to providing the skills and connections to land the dream job.