Internships are usually a defined period of work experience for an informal employee. They generally last from three to six months and can be linked to work readiness or technical training. Such opportunities allow a young person to get essential workplace experience and allow employers to invest in and get to know potential future employees.
Internships generally take place during program implementation, but employers could and should be brought in during all phases of the program. Private sector input into the design of a training program with an internship component will help ensure that youth can find internship placements and that the program is fruitful for both the employer and the youth. These initial contacts may become internship providers or may link the project with other businesses that can provide such opportunities.
It is essential for a project to invest time and resources to build relationships with local workplaces for internship opportunities. If there is a clear partnership between the project and the workplace, the employer will be more engaged in the programming. This partnership will allow employers to feel comfortable with the project and confident that they will see value added to their company through an internship program.
Each program should construct a database of potential internship partners. Potential sectors for employment can be identified through a labor market assessment. Individual businesses can be identified by visiting local business parks or industrial areas in the project’s area of training, scanning business directories, meeting business chambers and other employer groups, contacting regional business alliances, through corporate social responsibility programs, and through personal relationships. After initial recruiting contacts and visits with potential employers, those who understand the clearly defined objectives of the internship program can be brought into the project.
Many projects succeed in providing internships by initially working with small numbers of enthusiastic employers, who in turn recruit others.
A common⎯almost universal⎯complaint by employers about new, young applicants is that young people may be grounded in the theory of a field or business sector, but they lack hands-on, practical experience and are therefore not useful employees. Internships are an excellent answer: An internship can both provide practical workplace experience and turn into a true employment opportunity. Participants get an opportunity to practice what they know in theory and to acquire the practical attributes required by employers in the world of work, and relevant to specific jobs. Young people gain confidence in doing actual work, and employers see that they can be productive. As a result, the rate of hiring among young people who have served as interns is greatly increased compared with “off the street” applications for jobs.
The best projects invest serious up-front time and resources into cultivating relationships with employers for internships. The relationship should be seen as a partnership between the project and the workplace. It is important to select the right partners who share mutual aims for the partnership. Through a clear vision statement and careful communication, followed by research into prospective partners, a project can save time and resources in the long run.
Together with the workplace, the project should carefully plan the internship program, with participation from managers and from operational personnel. A project also should conduct a workplace visit before placing the participants there. During this visit, a standard employer planning protocol and checklist should be used to ensure all relevant details are covered in the planning. Interns completing programs have indicated that it made a difference to be hosted by a workplace that had been well-prepared and had made arrangements in advance.
The regular monitoring of the participants and employers in the internship program is important. Monitoring should produce qualitative and quantitative data, capture anecdotal evidence, record success stories, note challenges and how they were resolved, and make recommendations for subsequent phases. The data gathered from the workplace report should include data on the readiness of the participants, the challenges and successes of hosting, skills levels of the participants, and employer perceptions of participants. The data gathered in the participant section should include what the participant has been doing, learning, struggling with, and succeeding at, and it should allow space to review the employer. The program should share the report with the hosting workplace in order to build the relationship and improve the program.
Instituto Aliança, a Brazilian nonprofit organization, partnered with Walmart Brazil to train youth for the retail industry. A key component of the training was an internship for the participant. The article details the pros and cons of this private sector partnership for youth employment.
The Washington, D.C. Summer Youth Employment Program works to ensure that employers have a clear idea of the goals of the project and their responsibilities as employers before they enter the program.
Joven360, a USAID initiative in El Salvador, uses its already established links with the private sector to manage a job bank of internships for university students throughout the country. In addition, it offers tools for its private sector partners to ensure that their internship program is productive.
Philadelphia Youth Network Workready Worksite Toolkit
The Philadelphia Youth Network designed a guide with various tools and resources to assist businesses as they host interns that are a part of the Network.
New Ways to Work Work-Based Learning Toolkit
This toolkit provides resources and materials on work-based learning opportunities. While the resources are specific to Kansas, they can be adapted for use in a variety of contexts.
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