Internships – What’s a school to do?

Internships – What’s a school to do?

OK. So, last time I wrote about the value of an internship at the HS and college levels. I wrote that internships of all types “can provide experience in working with others; taking direction; being dependable… even showing up on time for work, day in and day out.” And, I wrote that companies should pay for interns that contribute to the company’s business but that even free internships can provide a ton of value to the student.

But, I also promised that this week I’d write about the high school’s or college’s role in providing a good internship experience. Here’s what I mean:

HELP FIND ‘EM! – this one is fairly obvious. Of course, it’s a terrific experience for a student to aggressively and ambitiously search for an internship. But, schools should provide a network of people and settings where internships are available. This requires diligence on the part of the school, beginning with an active alumni affairs function but also includes ongoing networking with the business (or healthcare; or teaching; or…) community. It also requires that the schools’ current interns perform well “on the job,” leading a company to want to hire more interns from that particular school. And, this requires…

… ACTIVE SUPERVISION AND COACHING OF THE INTERNS! Internship settings may provide good training and supervision – but, not always. And, even when they do, it is invaluable for interns to have a place to roost outside the internship setting – a classroom in which they can meet with a knowledgeable teacher, or professor, or business person, and with their own peers, where they can discuss their internship experience. After all, the purpose of the internship is to provide a learning experience, and that learning should extend to supportive, insightful discussions of their on-the-job experiences.

And, finally, schools should consider giving COURSE CREDIT FOR INTERNSHIPS. Especially with the type of coaching described above, students can learn more in an internship than they will in a classroom. Let’s recognize this, and let’s also use the award of credits to take some of the financial burden off students… replacing a more traditional course with college credit might help the student avoid having to take a summer class or, during a Fall or Winter semester, might free the student up to take on a part-time job for pay.

The bottom line? Internships can be critical for students’ development and for their ability to find a job after graduation. Let’s make finding and benefiting from internships a little easier for them!