Building career relationships one internship at a time

When Patrick Sweeney ’20, M.S. ’21 was an undergraduate at Worcester State, he had an internship at an accounting firm where he was given menial tasks no one else wanted to do. “When I got out of school and started working, I realized, ‘This is nothing like school,’” he says.

Patrick Sweeney ’20, M.S. ’21

Today he is the supervisor of the booking department at a different accounting firm—McLaren & Associates—and he has worked to make sure internship experiences there are different. Interns at McLaren use QuickBooks to prepare tax filings and analyze tax returns and financial statements. The work helps the interns understand how to apply what they’re learning in school in a professional environment.

“Other firms would be having interns scanning or getting coffee,” Sweeney says, “but the only thing that really differentiates our interns from the other team members is the fact that their title is intern and they don’t have as much experience.”

It wasn’t hard to get the firm’s partners on board because they saw the value in having interns do substantive work. It’s part of the culture at McLaren, Sweeney says. The firm has weekly lunch-and-learns that give all staff members a chance to present a topic to their colleagues to keep everyone up to date on the latest tax laws and accounting practices. Senior employees actively seek out ideas and insights from junior employees.

It’s a method of doing business that has been highly successful for the firm. McLaren & Associates was established in 2005 with one employee and has grown to 25 full-time employees. “Our bookkeeping department now is actually bigger than what the firm was back then, which is pretty cool,” Sweeney said.

For Worcester State, internships are a key way students gain valuable real-world job skills and a cornerstone of the university’s approach to experiential learning.

Sweeney started at McLaren in 2020 after reaching out to an employee—also a Worcester State alum—for an interview. He used that same personal, word-of-mouth method to seek out interns at Worcester State. He contacted his professors in the Accounting Department  and, from there, connected with the university’s Career Services office. McLaren had already been attending career fairs on campus, but now Worcester State alumni employed at McLaren go to these events to add to that personal connection.

For Worcester State, internships are a key way students gain valuable real-world job skills and are a cornerstone of the university’s approach to experiential learning.

Odette Carty-Bleary ’24

The relationship that has developed led to McLaren having three interns who were Worcester State students in fall 2023. Joshua Judge ’24 and Odette Carty-Bleary ’24 started their internships in the summer of 2023 that extended through the fall. Boadu Agyeman Prempeh ’24 started in the fall. All three are majoring in business administration, with a concentration in accounting. All of them are getting paid for their work. Carty-Bleary and Prempeh are also getting academic credit. More Worcester State internships are planned for 2024, with one internship spot for the summer and two for the fall.

Working at McLaren “has been great for me,” Carty-Bleary said. “This is the real world, so it’s quite different from what we have learned in school. The concept is the same, definitely, but different processes.”

Carty-Bleary already has some real-world experience under her belt, having worked for a number of years as an accountant in Jamaica. “I have been working in accounting almost all my life,” she said. “I love accounting. Once I hear numbers, I start calculating.”

She came to Worcester State to continue her studies, and she’s enjoying her experience at McLaren. “One of the reasons why I wanted to work in an accounting firm is to get experience preparing taxes,” she said. “The staff—that’s one of the greatest points—they’re all great. You can schedule an appointment to meet with anyone at any time, and they’re always happy to help or to advise.”

Boadu Agyeman Prempeh ’24

Prempeh agrees. “It has been a great experience for me,” he said. “There was some stuff that I had no idea about as a business student, but when I started working here, with Patrick as my supervisor, anytime I didn’t understand something, he would be very happy to assist me. I see the whole team as a family. They are very lively and always have a smile on their faces. It’s been good so far.”

Prempeh developed an interest in accounting as a high school student, when he realized that his mother, who worked as a trader buying and selling foodstuffs in markets in Ghana, was sometimes losing money. “I was like, ‘Mom, why are you not accounting for your own money?’” he said. So he spoke with one of his teachers and started taking accounting classes in high school.

Joshua Judge ’24

Judge also started taking accounting classes in high school. “I enjoyed them, and I did well at them, so I thought, ‘Well, I should stick with this since I’m good at it,” he said, laughing.

His internship at McLaren has also been a positive experience. “I really enjoy working here as well,” he said. “It’s a very collaborative environment, which helps with learning experience. The team’s great. I ask a lot of questions, and they’re very helpful.”

Sweeney enjoys working with the interns. “I’ve always kind of had a knack for identifying what I found helpful and then helping others see it that way,” Sweeney said. “I really enjoy the process of teaching them.”

Worcester State’s Career Services office hopes that the relationship that has been built with McLaren & Associates can be replicated with other local businesses across different industries.

“I want to encourage businesses to come to our campus,” said Benjamin Concepcion, assistant director of Career Counseling. “We can talk all day about how talented and hardworking Worcester State students are, but employers should see for themselves.”

Even though Worcester State has a relationship with McLaren & Associates, every intern still has to create a resume, submit an application, and go through the interview process.

“In Career Counseling, we support the student,” said Concepcion. “We help them identify their strengths and build interview skills, and we cheer them on. We don’t do things for them. We don’t talk for them, write for them, or go to the job interview for them. They do all of that themselves. They earn their positions.”

Some Worcester State students do internships for credit and some don’t. Those who do internships for credit, like Carty-Bleary and Prempeh, have to work through their departments, getting approval from their department chairs and having a faculty liaison who supervises them.

Throughout the year, Career Services plans and hosts a variety of events, such as employer roundtables and career fairs, to connect students with employers. Concepcion says recruiters are very impressed with Worcester State students. He’s not surprised.

“We don’t ‘sell’ our students to recruiters,” Concepcion says. “We showcase them—show who they really are. The talent we have here, you can’t get everywhere.”

McLaren & Associates certainly has been impressed with Worcester State students. As of spring 2024, 20 percent of its employees are Worcester State alumni. Carty-Bleary, Judge, and Prempeh are all hoping to join those ranks eventually.

Carty-Bleary and Prempeh are both planning to further their studies and sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, but both will keep their eye on open positions at McLaren. “This is definitely a great company to work with, and I will be happy if they accept me back,” Prempeh says.

Judge isn’t sure yet if he wants to pursue a career in accounting right away or start a master’s degree. If he does start working full-time, he says, “I think McLaren & Associates would be a great place to work.”

Photos by Matt Wright ’10