Updated: Nov 26
Work experience. For new job seekers and employers alike, relevant work experience is an all-too-common challenge. Businesses need skilled, talented individuals with real-world experience, and college graduates are seeking opportunities to understand the office culture, soft, and hard skill sets necessary to be successful in various industries.
Internships have the ability to bridge the gap between college and career. Professional experience through internships is so valuable that many higher education institutions require students to complete an internship for graduation. Through collaborative internships, higher education institutions can confirm the alignment of a student’s program of study with the industry in which the student has declared their major. As a result, the alignment increases the probability of the student working in the industry as intended, enhancing job profiling and curriculum development. Internship opportunities marry what both college graduates are seeking, and what businesses need to fulfill today’s workforce challenges. Students need hands-on training and an opportunity to use their knowledge from the classroom in practical ways. Internships provide realistic work environments, giving students the opportunity to network within an industry community, establish professional relationships, and receive critical feedback necessary for their professional growth and career success. Internship opportunities allow students to perform, receive an evaluation, and develop competencies that help make the student more competitive in the job market. Performing well in an internship program with competency has the potential of being rewarded with a strong recommendation or even an employment opportunity.
The business now has an employee that is trained and confident in the industry and work environment. Overall, students' knowledge, skill, and attitudes toward their transitions to the workforce are a joint effort of students, higher education institutions, and the business community. For employers, internship programs provide an invaluable firsthand experience with our community’s talent pipeline. Business input and continuous engagement can help to improve and develop the curriculum used by higher education institutions. With employers contributing to the conversation, internship programs and student outcomes will be updated to meet the needs of today’s dynamic business ecosystem. Additionally, students who successfully completed their internships have a 71 percent retention rate after one year on the job.
By welcoming the next generation of potential employees into the office, employers participate in learning as well. Developing an internship program requires companies to thoroughly define training and onboarding, evaluation and feedback procedures, and overall office culture. These exercises build strong, meaningful internships, and improve the experiences of current employees. Locally, our chambers of commerce and economic development councils are working together to facilitate more connections between the business community and internship programs. Specifically, Polk Vision and the Central Florida Development Council have worked to coordinate the county’s schools and employers onto Handshake (JoinHandshake.com), a technology platform focused on connecting students with work experiences, including internships.