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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Recents grads or soon-to-graduates may not want to shy away from doing an internship even though they’re out college. On average, employers found 39.1% of their entry-level workers from 2010’s graduating class from their own internship programs, according to a new survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Moreover, generally speaking, employers have turned approximately 58% of their interns into full-time hires, a figure that represents a marked rise in the trend.

“That’s the highest conversion rate we’ve seen since we started tracking this on an annual basis in 2001,” Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director said in a press release.

NACE’s stats are based on interviews conducted between Jan. 15 and March 1 with 266 organizations that take on college students for internships.

The results sound promising, but NACE attributes a large part of the high conversion rate to the fact that recent graduates are more inclined to take a job in the company they are interning for: Last year, 86.5% of interns whose organization offered them a full-time job accepted it, up from 83.9% in 2009—the previous high water mark.

“Students were somewhat wary about the job market and opted to take the offer rather than gamble that something better would come along,” Mackes said. “As the job market improves, it’s likely that we’ll see that change as students have more opportunities available to them.”

Also affecting the stats is the fact that the number of internships is also increasing, perhaps as companies see interns as a lower-cost alternative to increasing staff. The study found that internships are estimated to rise by 6.8% in 2011.  Increases are expected in every region and virtually all sectors for which data was available, with the exception of food and beverage manufacturing (down 5.2 %) and government internships (down 6%).

The overall picture is a ray of sunshine for new interns who were unable to find full-time work, as they can take solace in the fact that all of their hard work  is less likely to go unrewarded at the end of the summer.

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