At first glance, you wouldn’t think of the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area as a destination for higher education. But look a little deeper and you will find more than a dozen universities and colleges in this region.
From nationally recognized institutions like Gonzaga to smaller community colleges, there is a diverse network of education facilities offering degree programs in just about every major. So the question becomes, do you have a plan in place to utilize these amazing resources in your business?
Too often hiring managers complain about a lack of qualified individuals to fill their open positions. In small communities it can be difficult to recruit talent and convince them to relocate. But that doesn’t apply here.
With high quality educational programs turning out graduates every year, businesses have access to a steady stream of qualified individuals. In order to build a high quality team, small businesses need to build relationships with the local schools starting with offering internships to their students.
College students are graduating with a great education and limited experience. The opportunities for quality internships are few and far between. Those few students that are able to land an internship tend to spend the majority of their time performing remedial office tasks. This helps neither the student, the business, nor the school. Instead develop a mutually beneficial program that will help grow your business.
The key to a strong internship program is to create a new expectation for the work of an intern. Remember these are students working toward a specific degree. Not only are they developing a library of knowledge in a specific area of study, but they still have a passion for that type of work. Get them involved on project teams that apply to their degree of study. Leave the filing and office work to others.
Next you need to develop a strong relationship with the school. Talk with department heads and discuss the projects you are working on. Keep them up to date on how well the intern is working for you. Give them feedback on the skills and knowledge you see in the interns. Make the process collaborative so that everyone perceives a benefit.
Once the internship period is over, seriously consider the pros and cons of hiring the intern full time. Even well qualified applicants need training in the business. At this point, your intern may be a better fit than someone with a stronger resume. If you aren’t ready to hire the intern, see if you can assist in his or her job search.
Finally, work with the school to setup the next internship as quickly as possible. As long as you are providing a strong benefit to the schools and their students they will be more than happy to send you more interns.
In fact, you may find they will pre-screen their students before sending them to you – ensuring you receive the top students. Even better, when you finally have job openings you now have strong contacts within the school community to find the top level talent coming out of their programs.