To Mandate or Not To Mandate: Internships in Industrial Design Education
Authors: Betsy Barnhart, Carly Hagins, Katherine Tierney
Abstract: Internships are widely valued with students, educators, and professionals believing they support student success and improve readiness for entry into the profession. Students who participate in an internship related to their profession are more likely to find employment in their field. (Binder, Bagueley, Crook, and Miller, 2014). However, it is unknown how a mandated internship experience in industrial design education impacts student experiences, the rate of participation, and the perceived quality of the internship. Through internships, students are immersed in work culture, processes, and a variety of industrial design settings while also gaining a highly valued line on their resume. While their academic coursework focuses on learning core skill sets and theory, soft skills, professional expectations, and understanding of the realities of the field are often learned through an internship. Some postsecondary institutions have created a mandate for participating in at least one internship prior to graduation, yet little is known about the impact of a required internship in comparison to programs that prioritize internships but do not have a mandatory internship requirement for graduation. This study of two 4-year comprehensive universities in our country aims to assess various considerations around internships, including obstacles to participation, the impact of a mandate on when students participate in their internships, and how students obtained their internships. The study also investigates the legitimacy and quality of internships, and if demographics such as gender or race are a factor in participation. This study employed quantitative methods for data collection and analysis. A survey was administered at two separate 4-year industrial design programs in our country and included current 3rd year, 4th year, and graduated students from the prior year. The sample for the survey included (n=78) students, (n=43) from a program with a mandated internship program, and (n=35) from a program with no internship mandate. This study also included semi-structured interviews of 8 students, 4 from each institution to understand application rates, internship experiences, hiring process, and perception of value for their education and for their preparation for employment. This initial investigation is a model for further investigations involving a broader range of institutions and internship experiences.
Keywords: industrial design education, internship programs, mandated internship programs, educational opportunities, education and industry
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