Here in Texas, rising temperatures herald the arrival of our summer interns. ILSA started our internship program more than a decade ago. We wanted to provide local students and recent graduates with a little real-world experience to prepare them for the job market. It’s been very successful over the years, with a number of interns eventually returning to full-time positions with us.
While you may be understandably reluctant to hire inexperienced candidates for bigger roles within your company, that doesn’t mean you can’t offer opportunities for growth and learning. Internships are mutually beneficial to businesses and program participants. While learning more about the workplace in general — and the insurance industry, in particular — interns provide valuable help to busy teams. Working with interns is also a great way to check that your company is welcoming to generations coming into the job market.
Benefits to the Company
Internships fuel productivity.
Hollywood might depict interns as merely glorified coffee fetchers and file sorters; but in reality, today’s interns perform valuable work tasks that help companies be more productive as a whole. Like any employee, interns vary in their abilities and productivity, but a quality intern can perform clerical tasks, problem-solve with a fresh perspective, do research, and even conduct data analysis. By taking over necessary, if routine tasks, they allow employees with greater expertise to dedicate their time to the more difficult projects. Additionally, having interns lets employees flex their leadership skills as they delegate, train, or even inspire interns.
Interns make financial sense.
Having an internship program is not unlike having a year-round scouting program for great employees. Interns don’t start at the same wages but still provide valuable work. Because they often participate in specific projects, the training they require is more focused and often less expensive. When you find an intern with a passion for insurance, it’s easy to transition them into a higher-level role. Meanwhile, those who find it’s not a great fit can still use the skills they’ve learned in the future. Everyone benefits from this economical transaction.
Internships increase visibility.
Providing internship opportunities gives companies greater visibility for future talent. Showing up at college campuses and providing useful work experience is a smart way to get your brand out into the world. An intern doesn’t have to stay with the company to remember and promote it throughout their careers. Also, remember that newer members of the workforce are very proficient in sharing their experiences on social media. Use this knowledge wisely! In addition, interns can recommend other talent that may be a great fit for your business at any point in the future.
Internship opportunities promote better business practices.
A more skilled workforce benefits society as a whole. By investing in internship opportunities, companies help to close the skills gap. Those workers become more savvy customers, more valuable strategic partners, and more able owners and employees of businesses we patronize. Internships are also a great opportunity to expand the diversity of the workforce.
Benefits to the Individual
Businesses aren’t the only ones to benefit from internship programs, of course. While some interns have the necessary skills and experience to transition smoothly to the workplace, this isn’t true for everyone. Moreover, everyone benefits from opportunities to hone their skills and network, even if they don’t secure a full-time position right away.
A good internship program provides tremendous benefits to participants, including:
- Valuable work experience
- Practice working with teams
- Exposure to career options
- Networking and mentorship opportunities
- Getting paid to learn!
Interns can also use their experience as a way to see if a company or industry is the right fit for them. It’s a great chance to evaluate personal goals and define a career path. After all, no one wants to be the employee who hates their job!
Know Your Rights
Some internships are not always paid or do not pay as well, but companies must meet very specific criteria in order to legally offer unpaid internships. Employers and interns alike should make sure that their program complies with the relevant federal and state laws and regulations. Generally, however, it makes sense to pay people for their time.
Wondering if internships are right for your business? First, research the needs of your company as well as the financial implications of starting a new program. Do you have meaningful work for interns to do? If so, you can begin organizing a pilot program. Remember, there are many different kinds of internships, so everyone can find one that works for them. At the end of the day, a solid internship program should be beneficial to everyone involved.
Looking for more tips on starting an internship or mentoring program? Check out these other ILSA articles:
- Growing Your Own Talent: Creating an Internship Program, by Elaine Nance
- Mentoring Programs, by Ted Taveras