EMPLOYER PREPARATION AND PLANNING
One of the key ingredients to a successful internship is appropriate preparation of and by the employer. The employer must know what they are getting into, understand the level of skills and knowledge possessed by the students, as well as the limitations of the students, set reasonable expectations, and be clear with the treatment of the student intern, versus a full-time, entry level employee of the organization. It is the responsibility of the Academy Director to provide that clarity for the prospective internship provider. The employer supervisor should feel comfortable contacting the Academy Director at any time prior to, during, and after the internship, to discuss any detail of the internship experience or the intern. The following resources contain information, which will be helpful to the prospective employer internship provider during the preparation and planning phase, to ensure the employers’ readiness to provide a quality internship experience.
In order for every other step in the Internship Toolkit process to be effective, the Academy intern must have a place to go….a place where he/she can have the kind of memorable internship experience that the rest of the Internship Toolkit describes. Therefore, it is critical that the Director of the Academy program take the lead in coordinating the identification and development of prospective internship providers. This is not to suggest that the Director take on this formidable task alone. Rather, the Director does just what his/her title says; he/she directs the process so by the time the eligible Academy students have finished their junior year in high school, there are an adequate number of quality, paid internship slots open to receive them.
The key players in the identification and development of prospective internship providers are as follows:
The Academy Director (Director) – The Director is responsible for coordinating the entire internship effort. This includes, but is not limited to, identifying the number of internships needed as early in the school year as possible (preferably in the August/September timeframe.) Additionally, the Director should assess the junior class, and determine any special needs, or special circumstances, which would require additional effort (for example, an Academy student with a disability, public transportation issues, alternative current work responsibilities, sports commitments, family vacation, summer school and other summer commitments, and any other extenuating circumstances which will require special attention.) The Director should then coordinate the actual outreach to the business community with and through the Advisory Board Chair.
The Advisory Board Chair (ABC) – The ABC is the main link between the Director and the rest of the Advisory Board (AB) members. The ABC should coordinate the activities of the AB to complement the activities of the Director, to avoid duplication of efforts, and to maximize efficiencies. For example, once the number of needed internships is known, the ABC must make sure that that information is communicated to the AB Internship Committee. The ABC then monitors the activities of the Committee to keep them on track, developing “marketing materials,” setting milestones, coordinating activities (phone calls, visits, presentations, etc.), tracking and communicating critical success benchmarks to the Director (number of internships confirmed, number still needed, time left to accomplish goals, etc,) in order to complete the development of the required number of internship positions in a timely fashion.
The Internship Committee – The Internship Committee takes on the “heavy lifting” when it comes to identifying and developing quality internship positions. By accessing known internship sources (current business relationships, all other AB members, NAF national partner companies and MOU partners, suppliers and purveyors of AB member companies, Chamber of Commerce members, professional Association members, industry Association members, service organization relationships (Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, etc.), friends, casual business associates, etc.) the Internship Committee actually gets the written commitment (See Appendix _ for example of Internship Commitment Form) from the business community to provide a quality internship for an Academy student. It is the Internship Committee’s responsibility to “leave no stone unturned” for quality, paid internship positions. This means that the Committee must be creative in developing prospective quality internship positions, and “push the envelope” in coming up with the appropriate number required. This may require much thinking and planning “outside the box.” For example:
- A financial internship inside the billing/accounts receivable department at a local hospital.
- A financial or information technology internship at a hotel/resort
- An information technology internship in a manufacturing company
- A travel and tourism internship in the events/conferences department of a financial services company
- An information technology internship at a public utility company
- A “shared” internship between two or three small businesses (1/2 or 1/3 time at each)
- A “flexible” internship during the senior year, a few hours a day, with more time devoted on the weekends
- Coordinating the timing of the internship with the providers’ “busy time” or “busy season” (ex: CPA firm or IRS office in the January through April timeframe versus June through August, or part-time replacements for bank tellers on vacation)
- A financial internship in the back office of a car dealership
- A financial internship in the back office of a landscaping company
- An travel and tourism internship in the customer service area of a public golf course or tennis club
Action Steps/Critical Timeline to Internship Identification and Development
1- August/Early September – Academy Director meets with Advisory Board Chair and Internship Committee Chair and members, to discuss the number of internships needed the following summer, and any special circumstances or needs.
2- September through March – Internship Committee Chair and members seek quality internship positions for Academy junior class members by calling, mailing, coercing, cajoling and in every other proactive way, finding business people in the community willing to take on a paid intern. Although the Internship Committee takes responsibility for this assignment, the entire Advisory Board should participate. At each AB meeting, the Internship Committee should report the progress they are making, and encourage every AB member to be involved. Although the AB may be meeting only monthly or quarterly, this is the critical time for the Internship Committee, and they should therefore meet as often as necessary to coordinate their efforts. Each AB member has a list of contacts in the industry, whether it is business associates, clients, suppliers, purveyors, Chamber members, Association members, club members, casual acquaintances, etc. etc. In these challenging economic times, all AB members need to be “of counsel” members of the Internship Committee, and not only offer their help, but actually set specific commitment goals (for example: every AB member commits to finding TWO internship positions, one from their own organization, and one from their connections.) Some companies may have the financial resources to support an intern (approximately $2,500 – 40 hours/week x 8 weeks x $8.00/hour) but their geographic location may preclude them from taking the intern (no public transportation, too far from school, age requirements, bonding requirements, etc.) In these cases, the company should be encouraged to write a check to the school or to a separate 501(c)3 organization (thereby getting their deductible expense), and the student can be placed in an appropriate internship position at a local non-profit organization (Habitat for Humanity, Junior Achievement, United Way, etc.) interning in their Academy area, paid by the school, and still have the quality experience as previously described. This win-win situation is a viable solution when a situation as described above is seen as an opportunity, and not a hurdle.
3- February 2nd – All Academy students (especially the junior class members) participate in National Job Shadowing Day, to begin to understand the demands of the workplace, and begin to acclimate themselves to the upcoming summer’s internship experience. This may also be a good way for employers to begin to identify Academy juniors whom they wish to hire as interns the following summer.
4- March/April – Academy Director organizes a Pre-Internship Student and Internship Provider Conference. This one-day event, as shown in Appendix __, helps prepare the student for the internship interview and subsequent workplace experience by bringing in speakers from the Advisory Board and other places, to discuss resume writing, interviewing skills, business ethics, comportment, etiquette, telephone techniques, customer service issues, teamwork, dressing for success, presentation skills, and other essential workplace skills. Additionally, the Conference brings in the prospective internship providers, to discuss expectations, student skill levels, types of work a student can be expected to perform, and finally, to lay out a six to ten week internship work schedule (Internship Activities/Work Plan – Appendix _) which will include specific competencies the students will learn, and projects in which the student will be involved, to guarantee that the internship experience will be of the high quality type already discussed in this document.
5- April/May – Internship interviews are held. The Director matches the prospective internship positions with the eligible students such that each prospective internship provider may interview a minimum of two Academy students, and each eligible intern student has an opportunity to interview with at least two prospective employers. The students and employers then make their first, second and possibly third choices, and the Director does their best to match students’ and employers’ first choice. Note that in larger school districts with multiple Academy sites, the sheer volume of students and internship providers may require the Director to “assign” students to employers, and vice versa.
6- May/June – Students begin internship. Supervisor reviews are scheduled so the employer knows when the Director will be coming to the worksite to interview the student and the employer, and determine how well the internship is progressing. This should be done at least twice during the internship period.
7- July/August – Students are supervised and reviewed periodically (no less frequently than bi-weekly) by the employer/supervisor, to ascertain how well the student is progressing in the internship, to make sure that both school and workplace competencies are being learned and utilized, and to offer constructive criticism, to make sure the internship ends in a successful effort.
8- August/September – After completion of the internship, a post-internship event is held, during which students address their peers, parents, business internship providers and others about their internship experience, what they learned, and how they enjoyed the experience. Students may use powerpoint to make the presentation in a conference room, auditorium or other facility. Also, business internship providers are recognized and rewarded (plaque, certificate, photograph, etc.) for their contribution to the success of the program, and to insure they will participate in subsequent years.