You’re a small business owner. Have you ever considered the possibility of hiring an intern to help improve your operations?
That’s a question that Keith Yurgosky and Gretchen Kukuchka, representatives from the Small Business Development Center of the University of Scranton, posed to members of the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce at its monthly educational luncheon at the Shadowbrook Inn on Wednesday, Feb. 10.
Yurgosky explained via a slide show presentation about the advantages small businesses can gain from taking on a student intern, and how the SBDC can provide assistance in developing methods for hiring and training interns. Students can be assigned short-term or long-term assignments, and most internships last an average to 10 to 15 weeks.
What the program is not, Yurgosky said, is to provide a student to take out the trash, or pick up dry cleaning, or operate the office paper shredder. Internship is not a vague undefined experience of busy work; or an unguided/unsupervised experience; or an experience from which the student gains nothing.
“The pay range for an intern is between $8 to $15 an hour,” Yurgosky said. “We usually see students work 10 hours a week, with an average 20-course load.”
Internship provides students with feedback from a professional with expertise and background in that field, Yurgosky said. It allows students access to resources, equipment and facilities that support learning goals. Internship also has a defined beginning and end.
Businesses interested in hiring an intern should ask themselves a number of questions, Yurgosky said, including has business goals been identified that an intern can help you achieve? Is there enough work available to support an intern? Who will supervise and mentor the intern?
After these and other questions have been answered, the next step is to write a description with real work assignments and defined learning objectives Yurgosky explained. A business owner should decide in advance how the intern will be supervised and mentored. And the owner should also define how the student will benefit experientially and financially from the opportunities provided through the internship.
The SBDC will meet with business owners to assess their needs, write up and description and promote their opportunities, Yurgosky said. The SBDC also helps businesses screen intern applicants, define projects and work plans, and provide an understanding of expectations. Business owners participating in the program learn new supervisory skills and strategies. The SBDC works with businesses to help evaluate the internships’ benefits.
What the SBDC expects of businesses who take advantage of the internship program is to work closely with the organization and communicate with them, Yurgosky said. Businesses will also be expected to stick to their internship game plan, provide compensation to their interns, and to strive to offer a great experience for the students.
Since the program’s establishment in 2013, Yurgosky continued, 25 businesses have participated, and 40 internship opportunities have been made available to students. There have also been four post-internship hires and 200 resumes have been received from local colleges.
The program has been very successful in Lackawanna County, Yurgosky said, and now SBDC is going outside to adjacent counties to offer it to small business there as well.
Many people believe that student internships are only available through large corporations like Coca-Cola, Yurgosky said. While it’s true that many big companies do offer internships, small businesses can also benefit from such programs. In one case, a student with Internet skills was able to set up a Web page for the business that had provided him with the internship. In another case, a student intern put together a demonstration video for the participating business.
“More and more students these days are looking for real world experience,” Yurgosky said.
During the question and answer session, someone asked about the possibility of an intern being hired at a non-profit organizations. Kukuchka explained that a business must be “for profit” in order to participate in the program, due to the way it is financed.
However, the SBDC will work with non-profit groups to see about connecting them with organizations who can provide them with interns.
“We think of it as taking what is in the textbook, and applying it to the real world,” Yurgosky explained saying that internships provide a method of real-world experience for students to learn, grow, and contribute in a professional setting.