The West Michigan Strategic Alliance recently surveyed 508 employers that are members of the West Michigan Chamber Coalition and the Association for Human Resource Management of Greater Grand Rapids on the topic of internships. The results of the survey showed that companies view internships as important but many lack the knowledge and resources to implement an internship program.
“The questions were pretty black and white: ‘What are the barriers that stand in the way of having an internship?’” said Cindy Brown, internship project manager for WMSA.
“Money was one and also lack of a program in place or lack of knowledge in how to create one. That’s why the toolkit will come in handy for those employers, because it really takes a lot of the best practices of the employers in the area who are really successful.”
The toolkit Brown refers to is being developed by the WMSA in conjunction with the Detroit Regional Chamber, which has taken the lead for the toolkit’s technical development.
The employer toolkit contains the basic description of what an internship is, suggested length of time and important resources such as templates, job descriptions and more. The information is also available on the WMSA Web site: www.wm-alliance.org. One example of the type of information found there is what the WMSA describes as the five key steps to developing a quality internship program: setting goals and policies for the internship program; writing a plan for the internship opportunity; recruiting a qualified intern; managing the intern; and conducting exit interviews and follow-up.
Brown said planning is the No. 1 key to building an internship program.
“Planning is No. 1. Making sure you look at the overall goals of your company’s future,” said Brown. “It should be more than just saying, ‘Hey, let’s try an internship and see how it goes.’”
The input to help create the toolkit came from the initiatives advisory team — an assortment of successful small to large businesses, as well as nonprofits and educators. Brown said that the toolkit is targeted to companies that have not had an internship program in place, with a focus on small to midsize companies. The toolkit may also be helpful to larger companies looking to revamp their program.
“Small and midsized companies are the ones I think will benefit the most, but really any organization that hasn’t had an internship program that needs some assistance in getting it started,” said Brown. “The focus will be on the small to midsized organizations, and for the larger companies, we’ve heard that a lot of them have programs already, so let’s hope that we can help enhance their programs.”
WMSA is planning for a soft launch of the site later this month, with a hard launch in March or April after the organization has made sure everything is up to speed.