Prepare local students for the future with hands-on internships

admin//September 14, 2022

Prepare local students for the future with hands-on internships

admin//September 14, 2022

The days of coffee-running interns are over, or at least, they should be.

Since COVID-19, internship rates dropped 30-40% after many companies discontinued their internship programs during 2020 and 2021. Yet, internships are still highly recommended or required for undergraduate students.

Megan McManus

Hiring interns reduces costs and time associated with filling vacant positions. After completing an internship, 80% of interns accept full-time offers if given, making internships a strong avenue for recruiting qualified employees. Additionally, former interns have a higher retention rate than non-interns.

The Great Resignation inspired many young workers to have higher expectations for their workplaces. A Gallup Survey revealed the majority of employees want companies to support their work-life balance and personal well-being. This includes an expectation of better compensation for their work. Since nearly half of internships are unpaid, a paid internship immediately makes your company more appealing to applicants.

Creating a successful internship program requires intentionality, a clear description of duties and systems for mutual accountability so that both the intern and the employer benefit from the experience in the long term. We recently completed (paid) internships for two Boise companies, and want to share four ways employers can create a strong experience for students like us.

1. Create a supportive company culture.

Megan McManus was able to pick up on her employer’s positive culture immediately. She noticed how the firm actively supported young attorneys and female attorneys. Working alongside other young lawyers has inspired McManus to take the LSAT next year and consider attending law school after she graduates this spring.

2. Assign real work.

When interns understand how they’re contributing to the company’s overall success, they will be more committed to achieving company goals. While it is not realistic to suggest that interns should be fulfilling a full-time employee’s role, interns often bring energetic attitudes that can jump start your company.

Kana Oliver

Kana Oliver recognized that some of her employer’s procedures needed to be standardized to increase the efficiency of tasks as the business grows. After receiving the go-ahead, she assisted the operations manager to create standards that have made training new hires, onboarding clients and overall day-to-day operations flow more smoothly.

3. Offer mentorship and professional development activities.

Ask your interns what areas they are interested in, then connect them with a staff member or two who specialize in those areas. By going to lunch with attorneys, McManus was able to learn about their career paths and their specific roles, which helped paint a more realistic picture of law than what is seen on TV. These conversations also gave her the confidence to ask the company’s co-founder if she could attend a press conference with Gov. Brad Little and network with individuals who are influential in Idaho politics.

4. Connect with nearby colleges

Many young professionals are unaware of job listing sites like Glassdoor, and 59.4% of non-interns cite that not knowing how to find an internship was the main reason for not taking one. Our school and many others have specific departments dedicated to connecting students with internships. Email your job listing to these departments and they will likely add you to a list of opportunities.

Connect with a professor in your field and ask if they need guest speakers. Oliver discovered her employer through a guest presentation by the company’s founder. Likewise, McManus’s employers have guest taught at the University of Idaho.

When companies provide internships with hands-on experiences and opportunities for mentorship, they strengthen the future of their respective industries while giving students lessons they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives.

— Megan McManus interned at Smith + Malek Attorneys. Kana Oliver interned at Full Swing Public Relations. McManus and Oliver are seniors at The College of Idaho.