Patrick Teixeira finds niche at AFLAC; firms see programs as talent resource

NORTH BAY – When Sonoma State business major Patrick Teixeira went out looking for a job, he was not necessarily seeking an internship or a career. But when he went for his interview at insurer AFLAC, he found both.

“I wanted work in the finance sector,” said Mr. Teixeira, a Santa Rosa native and senior at the university.

After Aflac offered him a job, he decided to use the experience for more than a pay check by making it an internship. Now he is reaping the benefits of both having a job at a Fortune 500 company and earning units toward graduation. He passed the licensing test on his first attempt, and is now an agent with Aflac.

For students like Mr. Teixeira, internships are playing a bigger role in their ability to get work after college.

“Internships are very important,” said Michael Booth, regional sales coordinator with Aflac. “It is what is going to differentiate the competing student.”

Mr. Booth has been actively building the internship program for more than a year.

“My interest in developing the program is to work with juniors and seniors and help expand our hiring pool for when they leave school,” Mr. Booth said.

Experts said internships can be a major benefit for employers. For instance, companies can observe prospective employees and can give feedback to the school as to where they can improve training.

Another benefit, particularly during the difficult economic times, said Duane Dove, the internship program coordinator at Sonoma State, is that employers can use interns the same way they would use temps.

At Dominican University in San Rafael, the internship coordinator and director of the undergraduate business program Elizabeth Capener agreed.

“It is a really good way to fill positions in a down economy,” she said. “If there are seasonal projects, companies can have strong, qualified people eager to help that just may not have too much professional experience.”

This enables companies to use the student to get important projects completed and gives them real world experience they can bring back to the classroom.

She also said that it gives both the employer and the intern a look at how well they fit.

At the end of the internship program, students at Dominican are required to present to their classmates and instructors the results of the program.

In the more than 10 years the program has been available to students, there are typically 35 students in the business department who take the opportunity.

According to Sarah Gardner, spokeswoman for Dominican, roughly 20 percent of students are offered jobs from the companies they intern for.

Companies include a combination of large corporations, small businesses, nonprofits and government agencies. The Golden State Warriors, Deloitte & Touche, Juice Beauty and the county of Marin are just a few.

“It gives [students] a lot of confidence,” said Ms. Capener. “By the time they graduate they are thinking strategically about the future of business. These are the next business leaders and they bring from the classroom what they have learned to improve the company”

And in the case of Mr. Teixeira, he thinks that Aflac is going to be a good fit.

“What we do is help people,” he said. “All of our policies give cash. When people are going through cancer, and are going through financially devastating and emotional times, we are there. It is a good feeling to be able to help.”

For more information on these internship programs and on how to participate, visit www.dominican.edu or sonoma