This is not your parents’ internship

The news has been full of stories on the challenging decisions companies are facing to ensure their success. Some decisions result in staff reductions, which add pressure on remaining employees with limited “bandwidth.” This predicament makes human resource professionals look for creative and affordable ways to distribute the workload while balancing the company’s bottom line.

The employment strategies used by our parent’s employers are no longer feasible for companies to remain competitive. Employers used to seek employees who demonstrated the ability to perform routine tasks with minimal “out of the box” thinking. Companies had employment models that included developing talent internally and keeping employees for a lifetime. With recessions and global competition, employment models morphed.

In 2020, companies consistently rank their employees as their most valuable assets. Companies no longer seek employees who are satisfied with being told how to perform their job. Instead, companies seek professionals with problem-solving skills who are looking for ways to improve their organization.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the average cost to hire a new employee is $4,129. To alleviate this expense, many companies have found that hiring through internship programs is an inexpensive and beneficial strategy for finding employees.

Internships and apprenticeships have been around since the Middle Ages. Young people would learn a craft from an expert while building skills and knowledge over time. It’s a proven model that has spanned many centuries. Abraham Lincoln held an “internship” to obtain law training by a mentor instead of attending law school.

Pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships are still prevalent today, especially at high school career centers and community colleges, which train young adults for successful careers as electricians, technicians, machinists and many other critical trades.

The uncertainty of recent times and an aging workforce have led to an atmosphere of innovation in our country. Successful companies have found that expanding their experiential learning offerings (e.g., internship, co-op, or apprenticeship) is a wise investment.

Companies use interns as an economic and strategic way to develop the next generation of their workforce. They pursue students in business, marketing, graphic design, communications, accounting and finance, project management, engineering, computer science, cybersecurity, information technology, environmental science, chemistry and biology, to name a few.

Innovative companies quickly discovered why experiential learning opportunities are a primary avenue for recruiting and developing their future workforce.

  • Interns have higher retention rates, compared to non-interns.
  • Companies can “try” their new employees before hiring.
  • The conversion rate for interns to full-time hires is at an all-time high of 58.6%.
  • Interns enhance innovation and creative thinking.
  • Interns encourage hard work and foster leadership skills in current employees.
  • Companies take advantage of low-cost labor while closing critical skill gaps.

Building the next generation of the workforce through experiential learning is crucial to include in an overall company strategy. Non-profit organizations like the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education (SOCHE) help companies build their future workforce through experiential learning programs.

Every year, SOCHE attracts more than 600 students to apply for paid experiential learning opportunities in the Miami Valley region. Students work in a multitude of companies, from the government to high-tech to service industries. Employment terms vary from full-time to part-time to short-term special projects, both in-person and virtual opportunities.

Progressive companies understand they must morph their workforce recruitment strategies to secure a talented workforce, and a critical new tactic is offering experiential learning through internship, co-op and apprenticeships.

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