Internships offer win-win situations

Mary Cornforth

The start of a new school year brings with it new opportunities for businesses, including opportunities to employ students and provide them internships.

Longer careers mean for the first time in history, we have five generations working together. This multigenerational mix is not only valuable for student employees and interns, but also contributes to the health and well-being of the workplace.

Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review found coworkers are able to learn more from each other than formal training.  Even as younger generations benefit from career coaching and mentoring as they establish themselves in the workplace, older generations gain insights into new approaches and techniques, especially when it comes to using digital technology. Interns also can help with the difficult task of recruiting.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers Data 2019 Internship & Co-op Report illustrates two payoffs associated with interns:

56.1 percent average conversion rate from interns to full-time hires.

71.4 percent average one-year retention rate for intern hires with internal experience.

Mesa County Public Health supports internships and mentoring opportunities and routinely uses college interns from a variety of fields because of the mutual benefits involved.

While students gain real-world experience to bolster their resumes, Mesa County Public Health recruits talent and exposes our future work force to the careers available in public health. This fall, the agency will host its first high school student through the CareerWise Colorado program.

As we gear up for this new experience, I found recommendations from the National Association of Colleges and Employers helpful for developing an internship program:

Put an intern manager in place. A successful internship experience benefits from a go-to person who serves as the point of contact for supervisors and interns. This arrangement helps with daily tasks and manages workflow so staff doesn’t feel overwhelmed.

Provide real work assignments. Make sure assignments are challenging, related to the field of study and, most importantly, recognized by your organization as valuable.

Conduct orientations for everyone who’s involved, including managers and mentors. This sets the stage for a positive experience by making sure everyone has the same expectations and a clear understanding of roles.

Provide interns with a handbook or website. Offer some sort of guide to answer frequently asked questions and provide information about agency culture and workplace policies.

Offer flexible scheduling. Interns’ schedules vary along with their class schedules and might not fit the traditional workweek hours.

Offer in-house training opportunities and encourage outside professional development opportunities. This shows commitment to interns and supports skill development from which you’ll ultimately benefit.

Showcase their work. Allow interns to demonstrate achievements and promote internship programs with staff. Lunch-and-learn sessions offer a great way to provide the time and space to connect.

Conduct exit interviews. These afford an opportunity to gain valuable insights for improving the experience and assess interest in future job opportunities.

A successful internship program constitutes a win-win situation. As the new school year begins, consider hosting an intern at your business. The effort well could become one of your best investments.