As Northern Arizona University students return for the fall term later this month, many will be looking for the chance to use what they’ve learned so far through internships.
Some are working for course credit, some are meeting a requirement for their major or specialty, and some might be looking for a way to gain experience or earn some money while in school. But there is one thing that ties all of them together.
“The bottom line is that an internship is all about learning and is primarily for the benefit of the student,” said NAU Internship Coordinator Janea Byrne of NAU’s Career Development Department. Her office, part of the Student Affairs division at the university, advocates for internships, guides students in their job and internship searches, and counsels them on how to make the most of the experience.
Part of that is also helping businesses understand what makes a good internship – and what they get out of it when they create meaningful internship opportunities.
“In addition to getting high-quality work from an intern, employers get the experience of providing mentorship and guiding someone in their industry,” said Byrne. “They get the opportunity to shape the next generation of talent.”
Strong internship programs help address one of the perennial complaints of the business community – the lack of a skilled and prepared workforce. But Byrne discouraged businesses from creating internships for the chance to get “free labor” for work that really doesn’t add to the student’s learning.
Not that she thinks internships have to be for money or credit, she added.
“An internship that is truly an internship – one that’s about bringing them in and letting them learn – is valuable regardless of credit or compensation,” she said.
If a business wants to create an internship program, one of the first steps is to register with Handshake, a nationwide online platform that provides internship information and recruits potential interns from more than 800 colleges and universities. (Arizona State University and University of Arizona both use the platform as well).
NAU also has extensive information and resources for businesses that would like to offer internships, including best practices in creating an internship, discussing paid versus unpaid internships and the special requirements needed to create an internship for credit.
You can also reach out to the university’s internship coordinator and Career Development office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
When done right, internships can provide a powerful learning experience for students, while giving businesses eager short-term workers – and a chance to strengthen our future workforce.