It’s not always what you know, but who you know

It’s not always what you know, but who you know

There’s an old adage, “It’s not what you know but who you know that counts.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement. Those who reach out, get engaged and connect with others tend to create opportunities for themselves. We’re all in the business of sales even if it’s simply selling ourselves as a friend, neighbor, volunteer or employee. In addition to acquiring knowledge and skills, connecting is what internships are all about. For college students, internships are the best way to start connecting with area employers and alumni.

A recent email sent to families of Bentley University students put the connection of higher education and the workplace in clear unvarnished terms:

“Ready for Work: 7 Ways to Better Prepare Millennials for the Workplace.”

  • Colleges must blend classroom teaching and hands-on learning
  • Students in all majors should be required to take at least one business class
  • Career services should begin freshman year
  • Internships should be mandatory for all students regardless of major
  • Business professionals should lecture in the classroom
  • All students, including business majors, should be required to take liberal arts courses
  • Businesses should work closely with colleges to shape their career service offerings and inform the curriculum

“Colleges and universities are only as successful as their graduates,” said Gloria Larson, president of Bentley University. “To meet the demands of the next-generation workforce, higher education and businesses both need to step up and work together to prepare our students for workplace success and make our economy as vibrant and robust as it can be.”

The challenge is to have a willing and able supply of students matched to an equally willing and able supply of employer internships. It’s easier said than done BUT it has to happen. So what’s getting in the way?

According to a statewide survey of 471 responding employers conducted by the Maine Intern Magnet project, 90% of employers that have offered internships have had a positive experience. However, the challenge for many employers is the ability to pay or supervise young people who may be interested in their organization. According to the law, interns need to be paid as long as there’s an exchange of value. The exception to paying minimum wage and overtime, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet #71, is

  • If the training is similar to what they otherwise would learn in an educational environment
  • That the training is for the benefit of the intern
  • That the intern does not displace regular employees and is closely supervised
  • That the employer derives no immediate advantage
  • That the intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship
  • That both the intern and employer understand that the intern is not entitled to wages

Despite modest hurdles, internships serve as an effective pre-hiring program. By paying and training college students, an employer can witness the intern’s work ethic and talents. One Portland technology company pays engineering students $20 an hour. Successful interns are offered jobs with a starting salary of more than $60,000 plus benefits.If you are interested in recruiting interns, contact your local colleges and universities with a clear job description and expectations for the positions you offer.

University of Southern Maine Community Engagement & career Development

UMass Lowell internships, co-ops and experiential learning

Southern New Hampshire University Internships & Real World Experience

Building a skilled and engaged workforce through internships will take you and the rest New England into another era of prosperity

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