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Pollution Prevention (P2) Internships: Recruiting Students
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Getting Started - Scope of the Program
Recruiting Students
Recruiting Internship Clients
Technical Assistance and Support
Internship Tasks
Student Training
Program Costs
Measuring the Impact of the Internships
Where to go for Help
Complete List of Links

Programs establish criteria for recruiting and selecting the student interns, including academic performance and communications skills. In order to foster a successful internship that focuses on all aspects of pollution prevention, including sustainability and/or energy efficiency, the student interns that are chosen to participate in the program must have some knowledge (including education/coursework) and interest in these topics. Although some internship programs limit intern eligibility to students that attend a particular university that is partnering with or sponsoring the program, others allow applicants from a variety of universities, states, and countries. For example, in 2006, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IA DNR) successfully piloted two internship projects at the University of Iowa, using students from universities in Mexico and Chile to assist with energy-efficiency projects on campus. As a result, the University of Iowa's Engineers for a Sustainable World organization, in partnership with the IA DNR, created the International Intern Exchange Program as a way to share technologies and expertise beyond the state's boundaries, and to affect global P2 results.1

An example of a P2 internship program that recruits from multiple universities is the one managed by the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP). This Program is hosted by the University of Minnesota but does not limit participation to students attending that school. The Program requires all students to have at least a 3.0 grade point average and stresses the need for strong communication skills. Although recruitment is generally focused on students with chemical or engineering backgrounds, students with other academic majors are encouraged to apply since the specific skills that are needed can vary from project to project.

Another example of a program that recruits from multiple schools is the one managed by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), which has sponsored a P2 Internship Program since 1989 and works with numerous colleges and universities throughout the state to recruit students. The students in the program are undergraduate (junior level) and graduate-level with academic majors in various engineering disciplines (i.e., agricultural, chemical, civil, environmental, industrial, manufacturing, mechanical, or electrical with a "power" background), chemistry, and environmental management. In order to find appropriate interns, IEPA starts the recruiting process early, with student applications for a summer internship due at the end of October. Applications from the host companies include intern requests and project descriptions and are due the following January.2 The intern placed within a company or host organization is selected based upon his/her academic background and the predetermined project(s) that the company has submitted.

An example of a P2 internship program that recruits its students from multiple states is Nebraska's Partners in Pollution Prevention (P3) Internship Program, developed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) in partnership with the EPA Region 7, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, and local businesses. Started in 1997, the Nebraska P3 program has been successfully placing student interns with local businesses ever since. Although all of the internships take place in Nebraska and are affiliated with UNL, qualified students from participating colleges in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska are eligible for this program. Before the interns are recruited, the P3 Program determines how many positions are available and what areas of expertise are needed based on information provided from the participating host companies in their program applications (including the location of the facility and the proposed assistance tasks). This information helps inform the recruitment of qualified students. The P3 Program is selective in choosing interns - only junior and senior level engineering students with a strong technical background are accepted.3 The Program managers and staff interview promising applicants and make job offers that specify the company, location, and the tasks the interns are assigned to perform. Each intern that is selected is "matched" with the specific company whose needs are suited to the student's background and area of academic study. In some cases, the company may also be involved in interviewing and selecting their intern.

In order to have quality interns, the Nebraska P3 Internship Program places an emphasis on recruitment by visiting multiple schools; conducting presentations at student seminars; and developing a website, posters, and a brochure. Nebraska's P3 Internship Program has found that many students are interested in the opportunity to work with non-profit groups and public regulatory agencies, as well as private companies.

The new Pollution Prevention Internship program offered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) recruits students from multiple schools and multiple states. Because of the highly technical nature of the internships, students must be pursuing one of following majors: engineering, chemistry, environmental science, or environmental management. However, they do not need to be a New York state resident or attend a New York school. The program focuses on helping companies to incorporate clean technologies and energy-efficient manufacturing techniques that can be implemented to reduce pollution and energy consumption and save money.

An example of an internship program that recruits from a specific college or university is the New Hampshire Pollution Prevention Internship (P2I) program. Students participating in this program must be undergraduates at the University of New Hampshire in Durham (UNH). However, they do not have to be in-state students. Students that live out-of-state, but attend UNH are able to complete internships at businesses located in their home states under the program.

Most P2 internship programs use a dedicated website for recruiting students and providing information. Student participation is often encouraged by promoting the real-world experience and work opportunities gained during the internship that are effective for building a resume. If college credits and/or paid compensation are offered for students, these benefits are highlighted. Some websites include testimonials from students that participated in the program in the past that describe the valuable training and experience they received.

Word-of-mouth can be the most important recruiting tool, as former student interns and faculty at the university encourage promising students to pursue the program. Promoting the program to professors and staff members in a variety of departments, working with student groups such as social and academic fraternities and organizations, and hosting specific interview days for interested students, are other ways of recruiting potential interns.

Last Updated: 12/23/08


1 Iowa DNR Pollution Prevention Intern Program Website:
2 Illinois Environmental Protection Agency P2 Internship Website:
3 Dvorak, Bruce I., et al. "Nebraska Pollution Prevention Project: Engineering Education through Technical Assistance." Environmental Quality Management. Spring 2003.


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Hub Last Updated: 10/8/2013