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The Value of Internships

By Brittany Bird

People are often aware of the numerous benefits for students who participate in an internship while pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree, but the benefits to you as an employer of offering an internship program are not to be overlooked.

Interns are similar to entry-level employees who are likely students and are hired for a specific period of time. Interns may be paid or unpaid, though paid internships typically produce better candidates. Students are generally eager to get their hands dirty and get real, hands-on experience so that they can put into practice what they’ve been learning in their classes.

Brittany Bird

What’s more, students putting in the effort to seek internship opportunities tend to be motivated, aspiring professionals who are willing to work hard to show their value to a business in the field of their major and desired career. These young go-getters can offer fresh perspectives, new ideas, and valuable feedback. As interns are most often still in school while working with your business, they are able to provide insight into new technology and trends to participate in the continuous improvement of your company.

The feedback they provide from their experience with you can also help to better the work environment and position your business to attract other young graduates like themselves.

Providing internship opportunities to local students showcases that your business supports the community and is interested in the potential of the younger generations. Internships support students as part of the growing workforce by giving them work experience and a better understanding of their field of choice and their own skill set.

This is a great way for local businesses and firms to secure young talent in Western Mass. as well. Indeed, your company has the chance to try out new talent before hiring them as a full-time employee. Internships allow you as an employer to gauge the work ethic of the student and see how he or she fits with your company and vision.

Recruiting for these positions also increases brand awareness among students, across local university campuses, and beyond. People become more familiar with your company name and what you represent as a result of your recruiting presence. Additionally, interns themselves act as quasi-recruiters as they tell friends, family, and classmates about their internship experience and inform them of other positions available with your company.

Internships allow young professionals to become familiar with your company and its culture and mission. Scouting out interns is like proactively recruiting for future full-time positions. Internships are a time to evaluate the intern in a lower-risk setting than bringing someone on full-time allows. Also, interns can typically do the same work as a new hire, but for a lower pay rate.

Retention Rate as of 1 year of Employment:

Internship with your company: 70.6%
External internship experience: 65.8%
No internship experience: 46.3%
(NACE 2016)

Internships also provide the chance for more seasoned staff to improve their management, mentoring, and leadership skills by training the new students on board. Having internships during your busiest times of year puts them through the ringer and tries their abilities to keep up and help out even in the craziest of circumstances while providing relief to other associates from the less important or less involved projects.

Internships not only allow a smoother transition into a career for the student, but also for your business. Instead of hiring someone you have to train from scratch, you now have an entry-level employee who has spent time with your organization and will require significantly less, if any, training. You will already to know their strengths and how they work with the team.

When they come on full-time, you have a much better understanding of their abilities and qualifications and can bring them on and keep your business operating smoothly. And getting employees who are a better fit through internships means better retention. Studies conducted by the NACE have shown that, at one year (see table on page 30) and at five years, retention rates are higher for those employees who started with a business through an internship program. Even if there are no full-time positions currently available, the line of communication is there and can be kept open for when future opportunities arise or when the student graduates and is looking for a career.

Internship programs that are well-designed and well-run will attract bright, young talent that can be a great addition to your team and part of your strategy for achieving the goals of growing your business by increasing productivity, efficiency, and profitability. Recruiters can look to university career centers to contact personnel who can lead them in the direction of clubs relevant to your business’ field or inform them of dates of meet-and-greet events or career fairs. Often, businesses can also put postings on universities’ websites or flyers and applications in the universities’ career-counseling offices.

In short, the time, money, and effort put into an internship program usually provide a big payoff in the long run as well as providing direct benefits to your company’s short-term goals in the present.

Brittany Bird is an audit associate with the Holyoke-based public accounting firm Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C. She began her career at MBK as an intern and recently celebrated her first anniversary as a full-time audit associate; (413) 322-3502; [email protected]

Manufacturing

Leading Lights

Two Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) students are working as interns this summer at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Defense research and development center in Lexington.

MIT Lincoln Laboratory selected Douglas Bednarczyk and Shane Richardson, students from the Optics and Photonics Technology program at STCC. They are interning at the Lexington facility through August.

Richardson earned his associate degree from STCC in May, but will return this fall to take additional classes. Bednarcyzk finished his first year in the two-year Optics and Photonics Technology program and hopes to earn his associate degree in spring 2020.

Students in the Optics and Photonics Technology program learn about the practical applications of light, optics, and electronics. High-tech applications include lasers, fiber optics, holography, laser materials processing, optical systems, and more.

“Students in the Optics and Photonics Technology program at STCC train on state-of-the-art equipment used in many commercial laboratories,” said Nicholas Massa, department chair for Optics and Photonics Technology. “There aren’t any other associate-degree programs like ours in the region. That’s why companies approach us. They discover our students know how to use the laser equipment and know the theory. They’re ready to go to work.”

Massa said there are not enough trained candidates to meet the demand for jobs in the optics and photonics industry.

“I get calls every day from companies asking about candidates for internships and full-time positions. Nearly all of my students who graduate from the program get hired, and they often get multiple job offers,” he said. “After you get a degree in Optics and Photonics Technology, you can land a job that pays between $40,000 and $60,000 a year to start, and you go up from there.”

Bednarczyk is a third-generation STCC student. His grandfather studied electrical engineering technology, and his father graduated from a biomedical technology program. He looked into the optics and photonics technology after reading an article about STCC’s program.

“I enjoy the program,” he said. “It’s really engaging and hands-on. I’m not the type of kid that was meant to sit behind a computer all day. To use the laser-etching and marking systems we have, I think that’s a blast.”

Meanwhile, Richardson came to the Optics and Photonics Technology program with a bachelor’s degree in theater from a university in California. At STCC, Richardson had the opportunity to study with a mentor, Eric Lim, who holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

“As a hiring manager, I’ve been impressed with the quality of students who came out of this program,” said Lim, who worked at a laser-technology company. “It was exciting to find a student who was hands-on and interested in laser physics, something I had trained for in my graduate days. So I was very happy to mentor Shane.”

For his class project at STCC, Richardson experimented with converting invisible infrared light into visible green light.

“In order to change light to interact with anything, we have to change the wavelength, and that is what this whole experiment was about,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much I was going to enjoy the program or how beneficial it was going to be. It was a nice fit. I like the people here, and I like the atmosphere. Not many people know about optics and photonics technology.”

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