Each summer, college students across the country anticipate the end of the semester and the beginning of summer break. However, summer break has recently taken on a new meaning. This time is no longer for lounging by the pool; instead it is an opportunity to further education and gain experience in a chosen industry in the form of an internship.
A survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that 82.5% of employers offer internship or co-op programs. Furthermore, the same study also found 22% of new hires from the 1998-99 graduating class were from employers' own internship programs.
One of the most valuable benefits of participating in an internship program is the experience that students gain in their chosen industry. By allowing students this experience before graduation, they may find they are no longer interested in the chosen industry and can change their school curriculum. Also, based on feedback from intern managers, students identify their weaknesses and opportunities for improvement. Furthermore, students view internships as an opportunity to develop new skills, expand their professional networks and strengthen their resumes.
Student internships not only benefit the student, but also the organization. Student interns can provide extra short-term assistance and a current and youthful viewpoint. In addition to producing actual work, interns act as a pool of full-time candidates who have already been evaluated in a real workplace scenario. Internship programs are the best recruitment marketing your organization can develop, becoming a way to lure and train new talent. Also, students who have a good experience are more likely to recommend the organization’s program to their classmates, bringing in more interns and potential future employees.
To maximize the benefits of an internship program, an organization needs to make certain a few key elements are executed. Before an intern begins, the organization must plan ahead, considering office space, projects and staff support. Also, intern managers must be prepared to work with the interns and be aware of their responsibility as both a supervisor and a mentor. Once the intern has started, the projects given should be meaningful and challenging, to help him or her gain real experience. Furthermore, if the work is explained well and the importance of the work is discussed, the quality of work increases as well as the job satisfaction of the intern. Effective supervision should be provided to the intern while work is in progress. Finally, once the internship is completed, a final evaluation should be conducted, showing the intern their overall strengths and weaknesses.
Creative Alliance, a full-service advertising agency located in Louisville, is the largest agency in Kentucky. We offer meaningful internship programs in the areas of account and creative services, public relations and graphic design. In fact, there are currently seventeen interns at Creative Alliance for the 2005 summer. The success of this internship program can be attributed to the value we place on the interns. Here, interns are empowered as active team members, to be fully utilized on any number of projects. Gretchen Gerwing, a marketing student at Indiana University and return intern at Creative Alliance, valued her experience so much last summer she returned to the agency this summer. "I wanted to return to Creative Alliance a second summer because my experience the first time was so beneficial. I felt my work was appreciated and I had the opportunity to learn the business of marketing firsthand," Gerwing recalls. And the Creative Alliance culture combines an energetic, results-driven learning experience in an environment that is both professional and comfortable. Interns here all agree the helpful people throughout the agency and their willingness to answer questions and guide the interns in the right path have enhanced the work experience.
As for any organization or program, there is always opportunity for growth. Creative Alliance's internship program, though successful, has room for improvement. "Most of the projects given to the interns are meaningful and relevant, but sometimes there is not enough to keep everyone productive all the time," Alex Staffieri, an intern at Creative Alliance pursuing an accounting degree at Notre Dame University, explains. Intern managers should try to have additional projects available in case an intern successfully completes a project ahead of schedule. Interns are always interested in feedback from their managers, and there is no such thing as too much. "The intern managers give us useful criticism, but it would be even more encouraging to hear feedback from the clients, too," Jason Warren, an intern at Creative Alliance pursuing a marketing degree at the University of Kentucky, said. The more direct feedback an intern receives, the more the intern has an opportunity to enhance his or her personal skills and improve the quality of work for the organization.
Our internship program, while continuously improving, generates valuable benefits for both the intern and us. The work experience and relationships formed provide both short-term business solutions and long-term investments for future employment.
In closing, I have one last quote from one of our valuable summer interns, Jacky Doyle.
"I strongly value my internship experience this summer at Creative Alliance. I have acquired more knowledge about advertising and public relations being in a real business setting and interacting with creative teams and clients than I could have ever learned from a book. Also, I have built business contacts and learned to use specific PR tools that will be beneficial throughout my career in public relations. Creative Alliance has allowed me to improve myself as a public relations student and as a young businesswoman."