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7 Ways Internships Go Beyond Just Training Students

Internships provide mutual benefits for companies and interns

By Clark Buckner on December 10, 2014

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If you’ve ever been an intern, you likely have a deep appreciation for that vital aspect of your early professional life. (You may not have appreciated the work itself, but that’s a different article). You may even owe your current job to that internship you took during or post-college.

Most people know that quality internship programs can be an invaluable experience for young workers just entering the workforce. Some college programs even require interning as part of their curriculum. Additionally, high school and college students know that internships may open doors for them that can’t be unlocked any other way.

But what’s seldom celebrated about the deep value of internships is how such programs benefit companies and, perhaps even more importantly, the cities in which those internship companies reside. To that end, let’s consider seven distinct ways that internships go beyond training students for their next career step.

1. Internships allow businesses to test prospective employees before hiring them.

This is foundational to what it means to offer an internship program and an important aspect to remember. There’s a much greater sunk cost, or retrospective cost, in hiring an ineffective employee then there is in hiring an intern that may not be cut out for the task or industry in which they’re interning. 

2. Internships offer businesses a relatively inexpensive way to tap into the latest concepts being taught in college programs.

Attracting talent is a real concern for many industries. Businesses that offer internships to local graduates and professionals looking to make a career change provide a direct and cost-effective avenue for the business’s own continued education and growth. The business reaps what the city and college have sown.

Ben McIntyre with Internpreneur.com noted the need for cities and businesses to band together:

Cities have to work hard to retain the talent in their local universities. Those that will come out on top are the ones that encourage and empower their local companies to develop great internship programs, and then make it easy for those companies to access and get matched with local students.

3. Internships allow young, creative talent to “test the waters” of prospective cities.

Because so many businesses offer strong internship programs to attract top talent, the city’s allure might be a prospective intern’s deciding factor. Those looking for internships would do well to consult chamber of commerce websites to learn more about the cities in which they might work, or discover more city-specific information elsewhere on Livability.

4. Internships are favorable branding.

When a college student or recent graduate has a positive experience as an intern at a particular company, it’s likely that they’ll tell others about their internship. This engenders goodwill between the intern’s peers and the company, likely leading to more internship inquiries. Plus, offering internships to locals shows that a company is invested in its city and surrounding universities.

5. Internships are bridge-builders.

In addition to carrying the brand, internships construct bridges between the company, its city and area schools. Intern opportunities connect employees, city officials, and students and teachers in a mutually beneficial way:

  • Businesses receive free or inexpensive talent.

  • Students receive necessary training and experience.

  • Teachers receive students who are better prepared for the professional world.

  • The city grows physically, financially and educationally.

6. Internships build leaders.

When inexperienced interns join a company, it’s typically not the senior manager who trains them. Mid-level employees are often tasked with such a job, and it provides them with the singular opportunity to display their own leadership capabilities in training and managing interns.

Kayla Barrett with Organization Impact notes that such leadership gaps will need to be filled more and more in the coming years because “the emerging impact of Baby Boomer retirement and the volume of Gen Y workers entering the workforce will drive companies to develop more internal talent.” In other words, companies need to develop both talent and leadership, and this can be accomplished at the same time when new leaders are allowed to lead new intern recruits.

7. Internships provide mutual value.

For the most part, people often see internships as a helpful line on their resume, or possibly an in-road to a position in a prestigious company. What many may not recognize is how mutually beneficial internships are.

TechnologyAdvice’s Human Resources Manager Heather Neisen says, “Internships provide value to both the employer and the employee. We believe that treating interns like full-time employees has shown the best results for both. When we pay an intern, give them respect, and provide them with real goals and projects, they are able to add significant value to the company, as well as gain valuable experience to take with them in their career. We believe in laying the proper foundation and preparation for interns before they arrive, which allows us both to win in the process.

Now that your eyes may have been opened to the sometimes hidden benefits of offering an internship, Ben McIntyre provides these three simple though effective ways to help companies begin a great internship program:

  1. Plan ahead. Know what role an intern will fulfill, who will manage that role, and how the intern will be evaluated.
  2. Have an onboarding process. Help interns toward success by ensuring they know what success in your company means.
  3. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t offer an internship program because it’s free or cheap labor. Consider interns an “investment in your future employees, your talent pipeline, your brand and your community.”

For further internship resources, visit TheMuse.com or InternMatch.com, a site that has helped 30,000 companies reach 10 million students.

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