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Internships Benefit Interns and Employers

Today's guest post is written by our board member, Ruth Bramson.  Ruth is the former CEO of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts.

When a student walks across the commencement stage and receives a diploma, can we say confidently that his or her experience is complete to tackle _a real job'?   If they held an internship as part of their preparation, the answer is more likely to be _yes.'

Internships provide the integration of knowledge with experience and enable students to apply their knowledge outside the classroom walls and put theory into practice -  thus equipping the students to approach the complex problems of the world.    By putting theory into practice, students are prepared to fully contribute to an organization.

In return, bright, engaged interns provide added value - a good return on the investment with the students' energy, intelligence and time.  These individuals bring a new prospective to ingrained ways of managing and help redesign processes that are tired and have been overwhelmed by multiple iterations.

Internships are a three-way partnership among an institution of higher education, the internship organization, and the student.  They provide hands-on learning opportunities, teaching students how to collaborate closely with colleagues across all levels of the company. The experiences provided are not like what students get in a classroom. They provide opportunities to confirm or confound what is found in textbooks and set forth in classroom lectures and, in so doing, add another dimension to the student's portfolio of experiences.

A well-supervised intern comes away with increased self-awareness, exposure to habits of professional behavior and practice, an expanded social and professional network, and resume building experience. They gain a deep understanding of the interconnectivity between individual effectiveness and organizational outcomes.  Internships connect classroom learning with on-site learning, and companies benefit from the expertise of the student, the additional manpower, and opportunities to recruit from a pre-selected and tested pool of applicants.  Companies also benefit by demonstrating a commitment to the next generation of leaders and the access to talented faculty at the partnering institution.

It is likely that the demand for internships will continue to grow.  A 2010 survey report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities noted that 73% of employers  stated a desire for higher education to put more emphasis on “the ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings through internships and other hands-on experiences.”  Internships are one of the most valuable ways to source top talent for full-time positions .  And importantly they give employer and intern time to assess fit for the organization.  Studies also show that the retention rate is higher for employees who had previously interned at the company versus employees who had not interned - so internships pay off as long-term talent acquisition and retention investments.

Content-rich internships provide learning, growth, and networking opportunities.  More than 80% of graduating college students at top U.S. universities have had at least one internship, according to a study done by Forbes magazine.

Students want internships that allow them to grow, stretch, and contribute.  When companies treat interns like an extra pair of hands or a fill-in for vacationing employees without investing in the content of the assignment, this inevitably leads to an unhappy, unfulfilled intern.  Documented details about assignment, deliverables, and key measurable goals are key ingredients.  Additionally  flexibility is increasingly important to Millennials.  Technology allows people to be productive anytime and anywhere, and young talent looks for firms that offer flexible work options they can take advantage of.

Having a strong mentor/supervisor, particularly for women and minorities, decreases the feeling of isolation and increase probability of retention.   Surrounding the intern with inspiring colleagues, opportunities to collaborate, and exposure to clients and external partners enhances the experience.

The obvious conclusion is that internships provide value for all parties concerned, bringing invaluable thinking to drive innovation and growth, regardless of market uncertainty.  And assessing the current data, they are a strong part of a well-designed workforce, today and going forward.

Our internship program at Kronos has grown steadily in recent years, providing us with much needed bandwidth, and in a number of cases with new Kronos employees.  How does your organization incorporate interns into your talent plan?

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