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How high-impact internships for students help employers

Scott Johnson: You Oughta Know
Scott Johnson: You Oughta Know

In a recent survey of more than 700 employers, internships were the highest-rated attribute in evaluating graduates for hire — beyond even employment during college.

However, not every “supervised discipline-related work experience” yields maximum benefit. What ensures that internship experiences create high-impact value for both students and employers?

According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, internships are high-impact practices when students:

▪  Apply what they have learned in courses to work experiences.

▪  Reflect on these experiences and receive feedback that helps them improve.

▪  Build mentoring relationships with supervisors, faculty, and peers.

▪  Are exposed to differences across people and in ways of thinking.

▪  Use their experiences to clarify their values, interests, and personal goals — including, career-related goals.

This requires partnerships among academic units, including a careers center (at the College of Idaho, where I teach, that is the Center for Experiential Learning), faculty and students, aligned through strong top-level direction.

A high-impact approach means students are prepared and intentional before they seek internships.

A student can realistically set objectives for an internship and apply outcomes into building a personal brand and telling an authentic story backed by evidence of accomplishment.

Students share their learning through class discussion and reflect on key experiences, including whether they fit in the environment of their internships. For some students, the most valuable lesson is discovering they don’t.

Critical thinking transforms career tools such as résumés into compelling narratives backed by substantive results and targeted toward employer needs.

Throughout these learning/internship cycles, students can build relationships with professional mentors and participate in group-based skills reviews and practice interviews with alumni.

Recruiting a graduate with high-impact internship experience increases an employer’s confidence that the graduate possesses needed skills, maturity and responsibility from day one. Recruiters want graduates who can think strategically, solve problems creatively, adapt, communicate, lead, collaborate and pay attention to detail. High-impact internships help develop these skills and create value both for students and for employers.

Scott Johnson is director of the College of Idaho’s Business and Accounting Department. sajohnson@collegeofidaho.edu, 459-5219. This column appears in the Sept. 21-Oct. 18, 2016, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine as part of a special section on human resources and workforce development. Click here for the e-edition (subscription required).

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