Open season on interns
"What too few employers and organizations realize is that internships represent a tremendous untapped opportunity to create a strategic business advantage," explains Matthew Zinman, executive director and founder of The Internship Institute. "Companies and non-profits can infuse their bottom-line with valuable talent while addressing labor shortages, skills gaps, 'brain drain,' productivity deficiencies, and fulfill corporate social responsibility goals while yielding significant gains for the bottom-line."
According to The Internship Institute, those wishing to take immediate action to establish an internship program or improve an existing one should follow three key steps:
1. Define internal needs and wants – Companies should develop a job description based on defined needs such as projects involving research, writing, planning and online/telephone outreach.
2. Ask those in the know – Contact the career services departments of area higher education institutions well ahead of summer to establish relationships and how to best recruit the right candidates based on defined needs
3. Prepare Internally – Internship programs don't run themselves, but advance preparation is key. Resources such as Z University's Intern Toolkit will make intern programs as easy as possible to implement and improve.
Zinman notes that: "Any organization that hires college graduates or could benefit from an extra hand or second pair of eyes can turn an internship program to their advantage. All it takes is a little planning and creativity, and the interns can do the rest."
Organizations that are mulling summer internship plans in 2008 can take the Internship Institute's free Value-Feasibility Assessment . This assessment will help determine how valuable an internship program may be to the prospective organization as well as provide a sense of how feasible it is to manage the program effectively. Another free resource is an employer education series , which features the value of having interns, a telling study capsule on intern productivity, and sample ideas about "real work" interns can do.
"Interns are highly capable, highly motivated and – if well managed – highly valuable," notes Zinman. The five core skills that bring value to just about any business involve: research, writing, planning, telephone, and computer work." Examples among the hundreds of meaningful intern projects include: having interns conduct surveys, perform competitive intelligence research, uncover and pursue marketing opportunities, develop and manage Web site content, write and edit articles for publication, plan events, and prepare presentations.
Internship programs provide a "win-win" solution for companies by addressing social concerns and boosting corporate competitiveness. Making internships available to candidates in the public workforce can also demonstrate a corporate commitment to underserved and underprivileged populations, while creating another talent pool of productive workers.
"A common misconception is that organizations and individuals don't have the time to run an internship program," Zinman adds. "But with the right tools and preparation, internships can deliver a strategic business advantage. The key is advance planning -- a small investment of time to ensure that proper resources are allocated and that job requirements and goals are clear."