Students in Utah Valley University’s Department of Art & Visual Communications know that the first step in getting a great job out of college is paying their dues during an internship.

This semester 20 students, whose interests vary from graphic design to photography to painting, are participating in the department’s internship program. The program connects local companies, like Orange Soda and Axis 4, that are interested in using fresh talent with students looking to gain real-world experience and connections in their chosen industry. The students also earn as many as six credits towards graduation.

“I think these are the most important credits a student can take,” said Doug Anderson, internship coordinator and professor in the AVC department. “Employers want two things from perspective hires: industry experience and a portfolio of professional-level material. A good internship will give you both.”

Some students don’t need to go far to find real-world experience. UVU’s own University Marketing & Communications Office has a history of giving graphic design interns their first taste of working as creative professionals. “It is really valuable to see a job go from initial concept to finished product,” said Matt Mildenstein, a senior graphic design student who has been interning in the office for the past two semesters. “I am learning to work with clients, collaborate with fellow designers and talk with printers.”

“From this partnership, we gain top-notch students with great talents that produce not only great work, but they understand the trends because they are designing for their peers and fellow students, which is our target market,” said Matt Bambrough, creative director for University Marketing & Communications. “Not only do these students get experience, but they leave here with a portfolio.”

Anderson said that there are many kinds of internships in the local area for those with skills in the visual arts, everything from working in a graphic design firm to helping curate shows in museums. Oftentimes after a student completes an internship program they are offered more work from the company. “It is not uncommon for you to end up with a full-time job offer,” Anderson said.