March 16, 2014

Internship programs worth the effort

It’s March, spring is in the air (along with a ton of snow), March Madness will soon be upon us and students at both Clinton Community College and SUNY Plattsburgh are preparing to participate in internships with various companies around the county.

I’m a strong proponent of internships — as long as they’re carefully structured. Properly structured (internships shouldn’t be just grabbing coffee and making copies), an internship complements the learning that occurs in the classroom. It helps the student learn new skills, gain real work experience and begin building a professional network.

Swarovski’s Leeann Pray runs an excellent internship program that’s a model for other companies.

Unfortunately, not as many companies participate in an internship program as you might imagine. Starting an internship program can be challenging, especially for companies whose human-resources function is located somewhere else besides Clinton County. Most plant managers have more than a full-time job meeting productions quotas without the added responsibility of overseeing an intern.

A common concern expressed by companies is that they “don’t have time to run an internship program.” My experience has been that some companies see the “care and feeding” of an intern as “extra work” for which they don’t have time and don’t see the benefits of participating. It’s a valid concern, especially if an internship is not properly structured.

A properly structured internship program matches (matching is the key) an intern to a company based on the work that the company needs done to the skills and the academic discipline the intern is studying. It takes a little work on the front end but pays big dividends on the back end.

But that’s short-term thinking, because internships are worth the effort. Companies that hire interns have access to a high-quality, cost-effective workforce. An internship program can help develop into an entry-level talent pipeline as well as a way to get real work accomplished. Interns are knowledgeable, energetic and bring a creative and fresh perspective to the workplace.

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