by, Bob Wagner, Global Public Relations

This fall RIT is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its cooperative education and internship programs, a longevity that speaks to the value of incorporating real business experience into industry-focused education.

I’ve tasted that value many times over the years. I landed my first job, in television news, based upon an internship experience while I was a student at Seton Hall University. Since then, I’ve worked with many talented interns at Xerox. And this summer my daughter, a junior at Ithaca College, completed a very rewarding marketing / public relations internship at the iconic fashion brand Halston in Los Angeles.

More than 3,500 RIT students perform full-time, paid coops with more than 1,900 firms every year. Xerox’s Graphic Communications Business has long participated, and I’ve often wondered why more graphic communications firms don’t do the same. Interns bring new energy, a fresh perspective and a current skill set. Companies can use them to fill in for people on vacation, take on special projects and as a feeder system for future employment. Plus it’s good karma to help prepare the next generation of workers.

Take 2011 RIT graduate Adam Sampedro for example. His first internship was at Premium Color Group in New Jersey, where he took on a project that the staff didn’t have time for: assessing new variable information software releases. He also filled in for people on vacation, running presses and helping in sales. It went so well that the firm hired him as a pre-press employee the next summer — experience that helped him land his current and first full-time job at Global Printing near Washington, D.C.

Perhaps more intriguing was Adam’s second internship running a press aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 cruise ship. Among his journeys was a trip around the world during what proved to be historic times. He was in Egypt during the Arab Spring, had to skip landing in New Zealand due to the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake, and was between ports in Japan when the tsunami struck.

What are your experiences with internships? Could your operation take better advantage of them?

Bob’s a proud RIT Tiger, earning an MBA in marketing there. He also taught a multi-media strategies course there for several years. Go, Tigers!