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Experience Education manages the coop, practicum, and internship programs for schools in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal.

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Internships in the news: the recession makes internships harder to find, and more valuable than ever

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Internships more difficult to snag during downturn Students may have more difficulty securing internships during an economic downturn, an official with Career Services said.

John Thompson, executive director of University Career Services, said downturns typically result in an increase in internship opportunities as well as increased competition because graduate students and people who have been out of school for years are also applying for the internships.

Thompson said a recession changes internships from a last resort for professional job-seekers to a "bridge job" toward full-time opportunities in the future.

Internships open doors to possible careers

In an unstable state of the economy, internship experience plays an even more vital role in landing professional employment. Employers are cutting back risks by hiring within an established comfort zone of experience. In the last year the amount of internships available to students has risen 68 percent.

"Practices are shifting within the recruiting mechanism; it's more profitable now to see prospective employees perform in a work environment," says Daniel Pascoe, director of Career Services at Seattle University. "Internships work as an extended interview."

Internships suffering with the economy [*But internship placement firms are booming - rj]

Many students are experiencing similar lulls as they seek out internships. And when supply falls and demand rises, the competition stiffens.

Internship placement programs, third-party firms that match an applicant with a company, are seeing a 15 to 25 percent increase in interest over a year ago, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Programs like the University of Dreams and Brill Street & Co. find both paid and unpaid internships for students according to their interests and talents -- but for a price that could range in the thousands.

"I wouldn't rule those programs out, but I'd be very careful and do a lot of research," Boyd said. "There are some reputable placement programs out there, but many of them are costly. Sometimes it's worth the cost. That's a determination each individual has to make."

Fast Track Internships, a consulting firm based in Highland Village, Texas, offers a service that doesn't place students in internships but assists them in finding around 100 internships, mostly unadvertised, at ideal companies. Once a list has been accumulated, the firm helps polish and print internship-focused resumes for the student to mail. Each client is guaranteed an offer for a cost of $799 for an unpaid internship and $999 for a paid one, or they get their money back.

"Fast Track is really invisible to the companies," said Steve Rodems, senior partner. "We're a way of helping the students make contact with those companies."

Rodems said he's seen around a 20 to 25 percent increase in clients this year. He attributes this to an already-rising demand among college students for internships in the last few years, as well as a growing concern over competition.

"I think the economy is very much on these students' minds right now, and they know if there are thousands out of work who have years of experience looking for jobs, then it must be really difficult for students looking for internships," Rodems said.

Fast Track encourages students to first try using university career centers, online searches, and personal connections.

"But if you've exhausted those three things and are still interested in getting an internship, then we can help students go after those unadvertised internships out there," Rodems said.

Boyd said the internship hunt may be more stringent than usual this year, but the intrinsic value of paid or unpaid positions can go a long way for a student's future.

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