Most of us would agree that internships are probably the best kind of training since it involves real world experience usually attached to related academic work. There are some disagreements as to the value and cost to the company. And, although how internships operate, whether paid or unpaid, and does depend on the country involved, it appears to me it is the best value for the money all around–for the student intern, the university, and the company.
Even under the strictest scenario, the rules are very simple, the intern is there to learn, not take a job from someone else in the company (therefore, not free labor), and the most damage is take a little extra time away from a worker. Properly managed, if no cost to the company, a win-win situation.
So, why the negativity? It’s the way the world works. Whenever there are too many options, there are always those who will try to take advantage. A buck is a buck. While not to deny a person his or her livelihood, it seems little cost to bear for the fruit it delivers down the road. It seems here vision is somewhat short-sighted. What are the current options?
In America, for example, internships may be offered as paid or unpaid, credit or no credit, given to the needy or only to those of a particular university. If someone can get paid and still benefit, that’s good. If a company can get paid by the university to take a student because it is offering credit, that’s good. You see, there’s a lot of room for self-serving here, while the benefit for the dedicated student and company is the same either way. That is the caveat. The dedicated student.
In a perfect world, it makes sense for internships to be offered to deserving candidates–those students who have shown an aptitude or willingness to work hard. Put a committee together of academicians and company representatives and decide who would be the best fit over a few months of the internship.
Next comes, the notion of paid or unpaid. Who is paid? The student? The university? The company? Answer this question: Is the student working for a grade, possible position or experience to put on a resume, and does the company want first choice? Complex answer to a complex question.
Note. I just happened on a flyer recently at Drexel University in Philadelphia offering students internships $1,600 a month to learn three jobs in company. The pay’s not great, what an opportunity to add to the resume and be in a key position to apply for a job with this company if the student is interested and has made a good impression.
So, what is the answer? We have to be very careful in asking for what we want. I would like to see simpler terms and my less than Ivy League background would prefer that specific schools not be targeted, but that’s not my call. I have seen interns treated both poorly and used to great benefit to themselves, in this case the Federal government. Make the most out the interns you have, not so much in the work you have them do, but in the learning of how things work in your organization. Give them a project or two and let them run with it. The example I mentioned above? The two interns I felt were managed well actually came back to the program after graduation and were instant assets. They were also quickly promoted. They were enthusiastic, knew what they wanted and knew how to get it.
If your company has not had interns in the past, now is the time to give one or two a chance at the experience. Most schools have senior practicums or independent projects and the students write a paper at the end of their experience summing up what they learned–essentially taking the book learning and matching it with the real life experience. The school may even offer internships and all it takes is a phone call to get on their list. A pretty good connection, if you ask me.
By the way, just so you know. In other countries, students are often required to have benefits, work a certain number of hours, and may include vacations. We aren’t there yet, but the prospects anytime of a win-win-win is always a good thing.
The article below is a good reason for internships. Students are not perceived as performing up to par. For more information on what he and other perceive is needed to succeed in the world of work, check out Jeff Selingo’s article: Congratulations College Graduate Now Tell Us What Did You Learn. Some of the following posts offering different perspectives. They are just that–perspectives. I believe every type of learning: educational, training, or experiential, depends on the motivation of the user, and how the employer perceives the value of that source of learning. It’s the human factor. I still feel Internships are a good way to see what’s really there from both sides of the equation.
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A final reminder: I do have a website where you can find other items I have written, including my best selling, The Cave Man Guide To Training and Development and my novel about the near future, Harry’s Reality! Happy Training.