The world of internships is fast evolving. An ASAE Association Now article reports only 17 percent of college students had an internship back in 1992. Fast forward a quarter of a century, and more than 62 percent of college students have completed at least one internship throughout the course of their education. As the economy changes, so does the desires of interns today. Gone are the days of making copies and quick coffee runs. Before you kick-start or revamp your association’s internship program, learn what interns today value most and how you can meet them where they are.
Interns want (and need) hands-on experience they can implement once they join the workforce. While tasks like mass mailings and stuffing name badges are certainly important, be sure to also give your intern’s projects relevant to the field they wish to enter. Associations have the advantage of working with multiple clients in varying industries. Give your interns the opportunity to explore your clients’ industries and learn more about who they serve. Students who can leave an internship having gained new skills and materials for their portfolios often speak highly of the organization to their peers who are also looking to complete internships.
In a 2014 survey Universum conducted with 65,679 undergraduate students in the U.S., 51 percent of participants indicated an opportunity for full-time employment is most valuable to them in an internship. In addition to employment opportunities, interns also want to build their resumes and develop lasting connections. Learn what your interns hope to gain from your internship, then try to tailor your program to meet their needs and help them grow.
Guidance and Support
As staff, it’s your job to help your interns succeed. Create an environment where interns feel comfortable reaching out when they have questions or need advice. Consider assigning mentors to your interns or designating an internship program manager who can work closely with the students to be sure goals are being met on both ends. Establishing these relationships early helps the interns feel supported and valued.
While there are still interns like James in the workforce, students, by and large, want to be challenged by their work and greatly value the opportunities a successful internship brings. Integrating these key components into your association’s internship program will allow both the students and staff to get the most out of the internship experience.