In southeastern NC, we’re lucky to be home to UNCW and CFCC – and many of the combined 28,000 students enrolled. Better yet, as a warm-weather destination, our area entices local college students to stick around over summer break more so than sleepier college towns. So if you’re an employer whose company experiences an uptick in business during this busy season, access to student help is pretty abundant.
The question is, What kind of help do you really need?
It’s typical for your mind to jump to internship opportunities when wanting to bring on college students. After all, not every internship is paid. In many cases, interns are willing to accept a reduced wage in exchange for credit towards their major and/or direct experience that will enhance their post-grad resume. But there is a risk involved in deeming a work relationship as an internship if the tasks and responsibilities aren’t truly internship-material. Sticking an intern with busy work or admin tasks unrelated to their interests can ultimately hurt your employer brand.
Below are the key differences between what should constitute an internship and what should warrant hiring summer or part-time help.
An internship should include:
● A specific project with an intended goal for completion.
● A particular time frame for the individual to complete the project.
● Cross-functional opportunities to sharpen one's skills in communication and influence.
● A mentor for the intern and regular check-ins to mark and review progress.
● A formal report-out process at the end of the project. For example, have the intern present their work and skill development to company leaders to give the student experience of receiving feedback from stakeholders.
● Since most organizations use behavioral interviewing as a selection process, a true internship should give the participant a story to tell during a future interview.
Summer or temporary positions should include:
● A specific start date and end date.
● An opportunity for an individual to learn and gain experience, but no specific responsibility of an outcome for the employee.
● Responsibilities that are more task-related and accomplishable with an employee’s existing skillset versus “bigger picture” tasks or those focused on skill development.
Here’s a quick example of the difference between the two types of work relationships:
If the intent for a role is data collection, it would likely fall under summer or temporary help. But if the individual will be collecting data and applying an analysis for an intended outcome, that could be considered an internship.
Overall, an internship requires a lot more structure than bringing on summer help. While summer help should be able to complete tasks independently after initial onboarding, employers must commit to educating and guiding a student throughout an internship. Suppose you offer an internship that does not build skills or knowledge. In that case, chances are this will be conveyed to the college’s internship director – interns are usually expected to review their experiences and takeaways at the end of each semester – and can impact your opportunity to bring on interns in the future. When an internship program is done right, however, you can build an experienced candidate pool for future openings once full-time employment is an option for both the intern and your business. And, as referenced in this recent article, local businesses should be doing everything they can to fill the current gap of available labor in our market.
Internships and temporary help are simply not created equal, so take the time to really evaluate who you need – for the sake of your reputation as an employer and for the benefit of the students you bring on.
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