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Cisco Systems Offers Stock Options To Attract College Interns

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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — The feeding frenzy for top college graduates has reached a new high. Instead of students taking an internship without being paid, they are getting a piece of the company to call their own.

Cisco Systemsis sweetening the pot to keep college interns like Ryan Ratliff on their workforce. The computer networking company is offering 500 shares of stock to its interns.

Ratliff, a computer engineering major, says the internship with Cisco Systems seemed like the greatest opportunity in the world.

"It's awesome. It's great to know they value us," Ratliff says. "They realize the impact co-ops make on the program."

To qualify for the program, Ratliff has to graduate from college, get hired by Cisco and stay for five years to get the full value. The stock price he gets will be determined Friday. Thursday, it closed at 64 3/8.

"It's exciting. It's been interesting watching the stock," Ratliff says. "I've been watching it a lot closer this week just trying to guess where it's going to end up."

The competition for good people in the computer industry is fierce. Sara Burns, who works with the interns, says it is tough to find enough qualified people already in the professional market.

"We want to go into the colleges, get them early, get them acclimated to the culture and have them come to work for us full-time," Burns says.

Ratliff hopes to get hired by Cisco. His internship has opened the door to a promising future.

"Everything I've heard is that it's a great company to work for which turned out to be absolutely true," Ratliff says.

Cisco employs about 500 interns in their RTP office. They convert about 80 percent of their interns to full-time employees.


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