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Business internships

Marie Murgolo-Poore

Internships have become a proven method for students to gain experience before heading off into the real world, but this tradition benefits businesses as well. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, in 2008 employers extended job offers to nearly 70 percent of their interns.

It’s no wonder northern Nevada companies have implemented internship positions. These programs allow a company to not only find future employees but, similar to a probationary period, allow them to see if that person is a good fit before officially offering them a position. Normally, an intern works 20 hours per week, which is just over one day short of the typical part-time employee. The time commitment provides an employer with a good idea of how that person handles the day-to-day responsibilities of their company.

A good internship forges a symbiotic relationship that benefits employers and students alike. Often it allows a student to learn more about the career they are interested in and whether or not it suits them. Approximately 60 percent of all jobs are found by networking and an internship is often the most effective way for a student to reach out to business professionals in a community. Utilizing interns gives companies an affordable way to increase their work force. An intern presents a company with an extra set of hands to accomplish smaller or seasonal tasks while also training them as a potential future employee. Interns can also provide a new energy or fresh perspective to an organization or company, oftentimes bringing new ideas and an understanding of new technology.

In recent years, community colleges and universities have become more and more critical to the economic development of their regions, developing programs to train the future workforce. Hands-on training is a critical component in education. Without the on-the-job experience that an internship supplies, there is a much slower learning curve once the student enters into their career. Some institutions, such as TMCC, offer scholarships to help students many of which work to put themselves through school while they intern for a company.

Local businesses can support local schools by hiring interns from their local colleges, universities and high schools.

For some employers, specifically small businesses, internships are unfamiliar territory. Finding an intern is simple when utilizing the proper tools. Here are five simple steps to take when looking for an intern:

1. Determine your needs.

What tasks do you need completed? Will your intern be paid or unpaid? If you decide to pay your intern, what is a reasonable amount for the time you are requesting of that student? How many hours will that person work per week? Will they be paid overtime? What time of year is most beneficial for your company to hire an intern?

2. Find a local high school, college or university that offers programs aligning with your needs.

Many educational institutions specialize in a variety of fields. Find one that has a program to fit your business. In addition to local colleges and universities, look into the area high schools who often provide internships for their students. This is more common in magnet or specialty schools. However, depending on the requirements of your internship, you may need someone older or with more experience.

3. Contact the school’s internship coordinator.

Often times, a school will have someone in charge of interns. This is a critical part of the school’s success, so that person will likely have all the information you need to find the right intern.

4. Interview potential interns.

Just because the student has applied for an internship in your field doesn’t mean they are a good fit for your business. It’s important to find someone who will be able to do the job you need. Remember, this is a potential future employee and should be treated as such during the hiring process.

5. Determine the potential for future interns.

When turning down applicants who don’t fit your current needs, remember to keep them on a list for the future. Perhaps a student’s school schedule conflicts with the hours you would require them to be working or they have a summer job that doesn’t allow them to accept your summer internship. It’s important to remember that many degrees require successfully completed internships. Be flexible and add the “keepers” to a list you can reference later.

Remember, students complete internships to gather a useful understanding and work experience in their potential career field. It’s important that their skills be applied in a way that benefits both the employer and the student.

Marie Murgolo-Poore is the interim dean, School of Business & Entrepreneurship/Workforce Development and Continuing Education at Truckee Meadows Community College. Murgolo-Poore can be reached at mmurgolo@tmcc.edu or 337-5608.