Date of Award

8-2014

Embargo Period

2-26-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation (CMU Access Only)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Engineering and Public Policy

Advisor(s)

Eden Fisher

Abstract

It is theorized that competition in the global market requires highly skilled human capital with different types and levels of skills, and with transferable skills. Internships are intended to nurture the skills and make students better professionals, better innovators, and more likely to get employment. In this thesis I evaluated these claims by examining the effect of the skills developed by internships on the professional performance, innovation capability and employability of Mexican students. The purpose of this thesis is to evaluate both the mandatory internship program in its ability to improve employability and to test some of the educational theories of workforce improvement and of what skills contribute to workers’ innovation capacity. Internships prepare students for the workplace by giving them opportunities to develop relevant skills. The Committee on the Assessment of 21st Century Skills of the U.S. National Research Council (NRC), identified three categories of workplace skills enabling individuals to face 21st Century challenges: cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal skills. I tested the relevance of these skills to interns’ professional performance using intern evaluation data on interns working at a multinational enterprise in the global steel industry, Ternium Mexico. A general model of internship outcomes was used to predict Main task and learning performance internship outcomes, and ordered logistic regression was used to predict Overall internship performance. The results confirmed that (1) cognitive intelligence or technical skills are necessary but not sufficient for success in executing professional tasks and (2) certain interpersonal and intrapersonal skills were also significantly associated with better professional performance as an intern. vi The ability to innovate is one of the most important and desired meta-skills for individuals, firms, and economies. It is believed that nurturing students’ innovation capability will improve their employability and their ability to deal with a rapidly changing future. A recent conceptual model of Individuals’ Innovation Capability, the D4 innovation model, has four stages: defining, discovering, developing, and demonstrating. Using the same internship evaluation data set, I determined whether the four D innovation skills: defining, discovering, developing and deploying skills, predicted Individuals’ Innovation Capability. The study confirmed that three of the innovation skills, discovery, developing and deploying, increase Individuals’ Innovation Capability. The foundation skills of oral communication and ability to self-update, and the professional competencies of establishing priorities and explicit knowledge also foster individual innovation capability. Internships have often been required for graduation by institutions of higher education because internships are perceived to help students increase their employability as well as provide educational value. I conducted statistical analyses to test whether students’ performance as interns and the number of internships they completed are predictive of their Probability of Employment, controlling for various labor-market conditions. The study analyzed the records of graduates at a private Mexican university who had completed undergraduate degrees as well as mandatory internships. A logistic regression model for job placement four months following graduation included: individual factors, personal circumstances, external conditions, and interactions with external conditions. This study revealed that the performance as an intern played an important role on employment and that employability depended on the interaction of a vii graduate’s personal assets, his/her family connections, and whether or not the labor market was contracting. This thesis is an empirical exploration of educational theory concerning the value of internships and also the skills that internships should foster. Since educational policy is frequently driven by theory, such validation is a potentially useful reality-check for policy makers. This work can inform educational policy and provide the underpinnings for shaping initiatives that benefit students, firms and the region.

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