How do student interns benefit the companies who hire them?
It’s a question Butler University’s College of Business is uniquely qualified to answer. For over 25 years, the COB has required our students to have two internships before they can graduate. By contrast, many business schools don’t even require one internship.
The benefits to our students are obvious. They gain valuable work experience that can help them determine their choice of a career and gives them a competitive advantage when seeking a job. In the workplace they learn how to be professional, see different leadership styles in action, and decide which they want to emulate.
The COB benefits from these internships too. Students bring their real-world experience back to the classroom. This keeps our courses relevant and up-to-date and makes them a richer learning experience for everyone.
And, in the proverbial “win-win-win,” the internships also benefit the companies who provide them. Consider:
Internships are a cost-effective recruiting strategy. With HR travel budgets slashed because of the economy, many Indiana employers are using internships as their primary or only strategy in recruiting new hires. There’s no better way to figure out if someone is going to be a good fit with your organization than to have them work for you during a three-month internship.
Last year 45 percent of COB graduates ended up accepting a post-graduate job with one of the employers where they had done an internship.
Interns provide fresh ideas, especially on the use of technology. Today’s students are tech-savvy. They can figure out how your company should use social media—LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter—in engaging your present customers and bringing in new business. In the last few years that’s become a popular focus of internships as well as post-grad jobs.
Beyond that, the COB hears feedback from employers that they often use interns to instruct the rest of their staff in the intricacies of Excel. They know how to put in the formulas and do the calculations. It is fun to hear the students talk about how their supervisor was just blown away by something that seems second nature to the interns: “How’d you do that?”
Interns bring energy and perspective to companies. After doing things the same way year after year, employers tell us it’s refreshing to have someone with fresh eyes come in and say, “Wow, did you ever think about doing it this way?” We encourage our student interns to speak up in a respectful way after they’ve been on the job a while.
Interns can work on those projects that your normal staff keeps putting on the back burner because of their time constraints. Your regular employees are constantly putting out fires in day-to-day operations. Nobody has a chance to do the competitive analysis or research into new markets. A student intern is perfect for that because she can really dig in, do the analysis and put together the report.
Having an intern is a good way to give younger employees supervisory or mentoring experience. Begin training your next generation of managers by giving a younger employee an intern to mentor.
Having interns around keeps your regular staff on its toes. Your employees want to set a good example for the students. The interns will ask a lot of questions, and your employees want to be helpful, able to provide answers and share their knowledge and experience. Having an intern around puts everybody on a slightly higher plane of operation.
Because of these benefits, the number of internship companies working with the COB expands every year. Currently we work with more than 2,000 internship employers—including such companies as BKD, Delta Faucet, Johnson & Johnson, Merrill Lynch, Northwestern Mutual, OneAmerica, PwC and Roche Diagnostics. To make sure we have the best internship fit for our students, we also work with nonprofit organizations such as the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and the Arthritis Foundation and smaller, entrepreneurial companies.
These companies and organizations know they gain a lot from student internships. How about yours?
Chuck Williams is dean of the College of Business at Butler University. Mary Ellen Wolfsie, Director of L. Ben Lytle Career Development Program at the COB, contributed to this article. For more information on the College and its “real life, real business” approach to business education, visit www.ButlerRealBusiness.com or e-mail Chuck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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