Internships Help Develop Tomorrow’s Workforce

by Lisa deCordova

For businesses of all sizes these days, the search to cut costs is an ongoing process in the face of a challenging economic climate.  Over the past few years, one area where some companies have scaled back is student internships.  But is that really a good idea for the long-term success of the business?

Internships keep talent flowing within an organization and are essential to building a pipeline of new leaders and to recruiting a diverse workforce.  Companies that maintain strong internship programs and help build the workforce of tomorrow will reap the benefits of hiring new grads that have real-world experience and team-building skills once the economy turns around.

In fact, 62 percent of students who responded to a National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) 2011 survey indicated they “definitely would” or “probably would” accept an offer for a full-time position from their most recent internship employers.

It’s a Win-Win Scenario

Students also benefit from the internship experience.  Another NACE survey found that new grads with an internship on their resume were much more likely to get a job offer than those who didn’t – a plus in today’s tough job market.

Investment in internship programs varies from business to business and can take many forms.  At a large company like Harris, for example, our future relies on the leaders of tomorrow, so we have ongoing relationships with key university partners to attract top new college grad talent for intern and full-time positions.

This past summer, Harris had nearly 50 interns working at its Brevard County facilities from various schools around the country and more than 250 interns and year-round co-ops at all company locations worldwide.  Many of them were engineering and computer science interns, to maintain the flow of highly trained technologists into the business.

Community Benefits

In addition to exposing students to various careers and the real-world business process, we expanded the program to enable interns to get involved with our local community through volunteer and social activities outside of their daily work assignments.

A few of these company-sponsored activities included a visit to the Brevard Zoo, a behind-the-scenes tour of Harris technology at the Amway Center, attending a Manatees baseball game at Space Coast Stadium, various tours of high-tech Harris facilities/programs, and a Career Development Panel with key Harris executives.

This year, Harris also partnered with Florida Tech to provide interns with an affordable housing option at the Harris Village dorms and some new grads already working at Harris hosted interns in their homes.

Internships teach students how to excel in a corporate environment and give them team-building skills and real-world experience.  Creating and maintaining a robust intern program gets students interested and talking about their experience to other students on campus, making it an incredible branding opportunity.

Straight from the Source

Here’s how one of our interns described his recent experience: “Working with Harris this summer has not only given me fantastic, real-world experience toward creating software for the end-user, but it’s also provided me with insight into the production process of a software product from initial prototype design to alpha staging and beta testing,” said Jon Moore, a senior in computer science at Purdue University.

He went on, “I now appreciate more than ever the work that goes into creating the powerful applications that are critical to our military.  Since starting my internship in May, I had to overcome many challenges, namely having to learn an entirely new programming language.  This challenge afforded me the opportunity to improve my programming “chops,” which has prepared me for a position in the industry.  My internship has been a rewarding experience, and it’s exciting to know that the work I did as an intern will eventually be used by so many people.”

Remember, any internship program can be customized to the needs and budget of your business.  All that’s needed is a little creative thinking.  The return on this investment can be worth many times what it costs.

Lisa deCordova is manager, College Relations, for Harris Corporate Headquarters in Melbourne.