As the economy continues to slide into a recession, many Baltimore-area companies are economizing by increasing the use of computers and laying off middle management personnel. While this is bad news for many college students looking ahead to job opportunities after graduation, officials at Villa Julie College say the outlook is excellent for students enrolled in the college's computer curricula.
In fact, Villa Julie administrators say, in spite of recent economic woes, the demand from local companies for seniors and juniors majoring in computers and related fields to work as interns is overwhelming.
"Every student in the senior class in the Computer Information Systems program is working part-time as an intern, earning between $6 and $10 an hour," said Mike Rogich, Villa Julie's director of corporate relations and the man in charge of placing students as interns with local businesses.
Since employers hiring interns enrolled at Villa Julie include blue-chip companies such as Baltimore Gas & Electric, McCormick, Maryland Casualty Co., Noxell and Black and Decker, the students aren't just earning money. They are gaining real-world experience in their field of study.
The reason for the success of the internship program at the four-year, non-sectarian liberal arts college on Greenspring Avenue is its unusual philosophy in preparing students for the business world, the administrators say.
"We blend the conceptual with the hands-on," said Mr. Rogich. "Lots of schools don't have an even balance and the students don't see how their education fits in the bigger picture when they enter the business world. Ours do."
Marc Levin, the chairman of Villa Julie's Computer Information Systems program, said the depth of instruction his students receive -- for example, the program requires six semesters of COBOL, a programming language for mainframe computers -- allows them to "hit the ground running" when they begin an internship.
And because of that training, Mr. Levin said, Villa Julie students have an advantage over interns from other colleges. "Some schools produce 'ivory-tower' theorists," he said. "They don't get the practical implications of their education."
Not only do the students earn money and gain valuable experience in the business world prior to graduation, working as interns puts them on an inside track to a full-time job, Mr. Rogich said. "The students are taking up job slots before they're available to other graduates," he said.
The internship program is also beneficial to the employer -- and especially in a recession, Mr. Rogich added. "The student is getting an entree into the company with minimal risk to the employer, since the work is part time and the company doesn't have to pay benefits." He said some companies continue to hire interns even while laying off full-time employees.
One local employer, Viable Information Processing Systems, Inc. Towson, says it is pleased with the quality of Villa Julie interns.
"It's been very positive," said Patty Sichelstiel, an official with the computer consulting firm, which employs about 170 people. "The interns know their stuff and don't need a lot of hand-holding." She noted that the first Villa Julie intern VIPS hired became a full-time employee after graduation.