Summer is the high season for interns, so corporate environments everywhere often look a little younger. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), estimates of the total number of interns range from one to two million - but this is only a guess, since so many businesses don’t document unpaid interns.
The explosion of internships gets a deservedly bad rap as a frequently unfair channel for free or cheap labor. But if handled thoughtfully by both sides as a structured mentoring experience providing opportunities for meaningful work, internships can be a mutually beneficial tool for businesses and students alike.
In the best of worlds, companies are able to lay the seeds for millennial recruitment by developing relationships with future job seekers, while also creating brand ambassadors that can spread the positive word about their organizations to other employee prospects. And mentoring an intern can serve as a novel form of community outreach that’s uniquely rewarding for existing employees.
For interns, the benefits can be significant, including professional development, networking, and career exploration. Interns who capitalize on the potential opportunities inherent in these positions are well-placed to leapfrog past other candidates when interviewing for full-time jobs down the road.
Hiring a summer intern was a natural for my company. Causecast’s mission is based on helping businesses build a corporate culture of volunteering and giving back to their communities, and for that reason we were drawn to TIP: The Intern Project, an initiative by the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education. With an astonishing 80 percent of students in Los Angeles living in poverty, TIP helps level the playing field by facilitating summer internships that allow students to familiarize themselves with dynamic career arenas.
As the organization notes, “Research confirms that success has less to do with race and class than access to equitable opportunities. Skills such as persistence, motivation, problem solving, self-confidence and self-regulation are better predictors of success than standardized test results. These are all skills that are nurtured by internships.”
TIP has partnered with a broad array of local businesses - including Causecast - to create summer opportunities for carefully selected students. From this potentially life-changing experience, students gain real world application of skills and classroom learning; an understanding of technical concepts; increased exposure to cutting edge technology; soft skills, like professionalism, tenacity, communication, and confidence. All of this helps make students more competitive in today's academic admission pools and job markets.
As TIP’s mission statement notes, “The experience provides an opportunity for students to grow, and for local businesses to invest in their community. The relationship between students and business, learning and commerce, can be a foundation for Los Angeles for years to come.”
The TIP experience was predictably rewarding for everyone involved, and we were gratified to expose one of the TIP interns to the business of doing well by doing good.
Since TIP students are asked to document their experiences through videos and blogs, here’s what our intern, Stephanie Park, had to say about why this internship was important to her, and why other businesses should offer internships to students like her:
In order to stand out from a crowd full of people, you have to do something that appeals to another person’s perspective, and I think this internship helps me fulfill that. My summer internship here at Causecast is another step towards my future as an event planner. It is important to me because it gives me an opportunity to experience the work field in which technology is used. Other businesses should offer internship opportunities to students like myself because it will give them the knowledge of the work field and it will help them decide whether or not their field of interest will stay the same or change. I know that Causecast is definitely aiding and encouraging to me become a successful event planner later on in the future.
TIP is only one of the thousands of organizations across the country connecting students to career opportunities they may have otherwise not had access to. So when considering how your company can make a community impact, start by reaching out to the TIPs in your own area to invite the next generation into your fold. Then make sure that the experience is constructive and fair for everyone involved.