Virginia Tech has been recognized as one of the top 100 employers in the commonwealth for providing high-quality internships to students. The award from the Virginia Talent + Opportunity Partnership (V-TOP) celebrates Virginia Intern Day and spotlights the university’s commitment to providing students with ways to learn experientially through place-based opportunities.

President Tim Sands and the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors have identified removing financial barriers and enriching the educational experience for students — in an initiative called the Virginia Tech Advantage — as leading priorities for the university’s future. And as chair of the Virginia Council of Presidents, Sands worked with other universities to agree on a commitment to make paid internships available to every student who wants one without increasing time-to-degree.

“We’re proud to celebrate all the talented interns working with the university and our industry partners,” Sands said. “Paid internships are a priority for Virginia Tech and our sister institutions, providing a proven pathway to a fulfilling career for students and an effective way to fill critical talent gaps in the commonwealth.” 

What is Virginia Intern Day?

The university is joining with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, other colleges and universities, and partner companies and organizations across the commonwealth to celebrate. 

  • Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed a proclamation in 2022 recognizing the inaugural Virginia Intern Day, aligning with National Intern Day on the last Thursday in July.
  • In addition to recognizing employers providing robust internship programs, it’s also an opportunity to recognize students as well as the departments, faculty, and staff who are instrumental in delivering a variety of experiential learning opportunities.

Engaging students in career-related experiences

Career and Professional Development’s Campus internEXP is among the universitywide programs and initiatives that engage students in internships and similar career-related experiences.

  • The program provides paid, part-time internships for undergraduates of all majors to work for Virginia Tech departments and offices. 
  • In addition, transfer students can participate during their first semester and international students can participate in the program without the need for any type of work authorization. 

Students who are hired are enrolled in a zero-credit course for guided learning that appears on their transcript. This course creates opportunities for students to set goals, develop as professionals, and reflect on their learning and development. The course also focuses on supporting students in their development of Career and Professional Development’s seven professional competencies

The program is also a professional development opportunity for faculty and staff. Potential supervisors must attend three sessions where they learn best practices around hosting an intern, writing and posting job descriptions, interviewing, making offers, onboarding, providing feedback, and having difficult conversations.

“Career and Professional Development is committed to building pathways to work-based learning and career-related experiences for all Virginia Tech students. The data show that programs like these bolster students’ career readiness and improve post-graduation outcomes,” Executive Director Matthew P. Cowley said. “Campus internEXP also allows students to give back to the institution they love while gaining valuable, paid professional experience. Career and Professional Development is grateful for the growing number of campus partners willing to invest in Virginia Tech students in this way.”  

Similar universitywide initiatives

Each college also offers a variety of opportunities and resources to support students seeking internships and engagement with partner companies and organizations.

Student building skills while honing her career path

Camille D’Amico, a Calhoun Honors Discovery Program scholar majoring in industrial design, said her internship at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine has provided her invaluable experience. 

While working to design marketing materials for the School of Medicine, the junior from Richboro, Pennsylvania, said her work also gave her the opportunity to strengthen her ability to communicate across disciplines, network, and navigate setbacks independently.

  • What she says: “I am researching, developing quick drafts of potential designs, and receiving feedback all as part of my projects. The ability to apply my learning to a real-life situation and help make a project better has been so rewarding. My internship has also led me to develop a career focus in design research where I highly appreciate the process of taking a project from the background research to the user insight to the end product.”

Majority of surveyed grads were interns

The majority of Virginia Tech graduates say they had some kind of career-related experience as students, according to Career and Professional Development, which surveys new graduates annually. When specifically referring to internship positions, 53 percent of 2022 graduates who responded to the survey indicated they had at least one internship during their time at the university.

  • Find an internship: Career and Professional Development offers a variety of online tips and resources for students looking for internships. Positions are posted for applications in the summer, fall, and spring for experiences that begin in the following semester. 

Quina Weber-Shirk leans in as she listens closely to a community member.
The Center for Economic and Community Engagement’s Quina Weber-Shirk leads the Region 2 Internship Collaborative, which connects students to opportunities with local employers. Photo by Diane Deffenbaugh for Virginia Tech.

Linking local employers to students

The Region 2 Internship Collaborative, another V-TOP initiative, bridges the gap between secondary and higher education institutions, their students, and businesses that are providing work-based learning opportunities in the New River Valley, the Roanoke-Alleghany region, and the greater Lynchburg region.

“Virginia Tech was one of the first two institutions to receive a grant to start a regional collaborative, and we’ve laid a great foundation of bringing students, educators, and employers together to talk about, build excitement around, and create internship opportunities in the region,” said Quina Weber-Shirk, a program manager at the Center for Economic and Community Engagement who oversees the project.

The collaborative also

  • Holds networking events to bring students and employers together to explore internship possibilities.
  • Supports employers considering creating an internship position.
  • Helps companies connect to educational institutions to find suitable candidates.
  • Keeps our best and brightest minds in Virginia by connecting students to local employers.

The center for Economic and Community Engagement, part of Outreach and International Affairs, is a universitywide center that drives economic growth, addresses workforce needs, and builds resilience in communities across Virginia.

“Internships allow students to explore an opportunity for the future and provide a space to try out the work and how that aligns with their skill sets,” Weber-Shirk said. “Meanwhile, they also provide companies greater connection to training or education programs to see how what they’re doing in the industry aligns with what’s being taught.”

In addition, offering experiences such as internships, cooperative experiences, apprenticeships, clinicals, and other work-based learning are opportunities for employers to train, develop, and attract new talent. Focusing on work-based learning produces a talented workforce with the skills needed to fill in-demand jobs across the region.

13 employers in region make the list

V-TOP’s 2023 Top Virginia Employers for Interns Awards recognize Virginia employers that provide high-quality internships to students by region. Some of the noteworthy efforts of employers include exposure to senior leaders, structured mentorship programs, housing allowances, paid time off, security clearances, and training for industry certifications.

In addition to Virginia Tech, the other regional employers recognized are

Share this story