March 25, 1999            


Contact: Bob Bruce, (503) 725-5714
Source: Marcia Fischer, (503) 725-4289

First High-Tech Graduate Interns Ready for Oregon Industry

PORTLAND - Oregon's high technology industry is looking to many happy returns on April 15.

That's the date the Oregon Graduate Engineering Internship Program (OGEIP) selects its first master's degree class of interns for summer 1999.

It's a day many in the high tech community have waited for since 1997 when Senate Bill 504 provided additional state money to enhance engineering education in Oregon universities. Educators and industry leaders hope it marks a way to increase the pool of master's level engineering graduates in Oregon, benefiting companies and students alike.

The new program is a joint partnership. Organized by the Oregon University System, it offers competitive high tech internships for graduate-level students enrolled in engineering and computer science disciplines at the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology, Portland State University, Oregon State University or the University of Oregon. PSU, OSU and UO are the three OUS campuses with master's and doctoral programs in high tech fields.

Students gain access to paid internship placements, real world job experience, and variable university credit. They also may earn a $5,000 annual scholarship and the chance for continuing employment after graduation.

Companies benefit from early recruitment of graduate-level talent, project work done by degreed interns, opportunity to screen candidates from multiple campuses, and closer links with Oregon academics and their campus research groups.

"We're really excited," says Marcia Fischer, OGEIP director. "The program is off to a solid start with high quality companies and students."

Nine companies are first-year participants. They include Intel Corporation, Credence Systems, Electro Scientific Industries, Inc., Freightliner Corporation, Tektronix, Inc., Planar Systems, Sequent Computer Systems, RadiSys Corporation and Micro Systems Engineering.

Fischer expects around 75 internship applicants by the selection date in mid-April. Already, 69 have applied and are under consideration for nearly 20 jobs posted by the participating companies. All the positions are professional placements.

The new program offers two tracks. One is for individuals it can recruit as new master's degree students in the fields of chemical, computer, electrical, manufacturing, mechanical engineering, computer science, environmental science and engineering, or materials science and engineering. A second track is for currently enrolled engineering or computer science students in those areas.

The new student track allows those selected to work full time in the summer prior to their first on-campus enrollment. They then have a second internship opportunity with their sponsoring company after initial, full-time study at their respective campuses. In all, they will spend nine months in an internship experience.

The track for currently enrolled students simply concentrates the internship period with the sponsoring company. They will spend six months as interns.

Students from both tracks are paired with faculty advisors and company supervisors. They jointly develop an academic plan and a work plan for the internship experience. All meet regularly to monitor progress.

Campus and industry representatives think the program will help students focus their studies and their career preparation.

"If a student gets the right position, I think it will have a much sharper impact on their career," says Rob Daasch, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at PSU. "As a student goes out and works with a company earlier in their academic career and for a longer time, they'll come back with a clearer view of what they need from their studies. The experience will guide their curriculum. As they work on their studies, they'll select faculty who can help them close loops in their studies and their careers."

From the industry side, the chance to choose the right intern also optimizes recruitment for long-term employment.

"The company has no risk because we're not committed (to place an intern) if the program cannot deliver a student that's the right fit for the position as defined by the company," says Tom Fahey, director of human resources at Micro Systems Engineering. "The company has the final call."

"We get to select those who really have some interest in our company. By putting them in the company setting, our ultimate goal is really to see them take off and run with our business."

A year from now Fischer would like to see participation grow to 50 positions and upwards of 200 student applicants.

"I'd love to see OGI have 100," says Jim Huntzicker, OGI senior vice president and executive director of the Center for Professional Development. "I think if we do this right and leverage it, it could be a very big program."

Huntzicker, who had the idea for the program, says a key will be developing what he terms "industry-ready" graduates. "We need something to distinguish ourselves," he observes. "If we produce industry-ready people, people who are able to contribute immediately to the workforce, a workforce directly related to Oregon industry, we'll be at least a little different.

"Getting the first year under our belt will be positive. If our interns are industry-ready, industry will quickly realize value from them. The interest will grow."

Daasch says students are already taking notice. He says the initial list of participating companies is one reason students are becoming attracted to OGEIP.

"These are the companies whose names they see in the news," he says. "Students see them as being the leaders in high technology in Oregon."

To spread the word, Fischer and one additional staff member are using as many communications tools as possible. They have developed printed materials, an OGEIP Web site, set up links to partner university and corporate Web sites, arranged direct mail and campus visits and made countless one-on-one contacts.

That approach is building interest among current and potential graduate students. The OGEIP Web site, for example, now averages about 200 inquiries a week. E-mail inquiries add another 20 to 25 requests for information. But both campus and industry partners expect there soon will be more.

Potential students and companies interested in additional information about the program are invited to contact Fischer at (503) 725-4289. Program information also is available on the Internet at www.ogeip.org and participating campus Web sites.

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