I remember a few short years ago coming across several businesses who told me about the problems they encountered when offering internships, or student work experience as it was known then. They complained about everything the students did; how they didn’t dress appropriately, that they didn’t speak to customers properly, that their time keeping was poor, pretty much everything in fact. At the time I remember thinking that my sympathies were with the employer, after all, here are a handful of business owners who are trying desperately to promote their businesses during challenging times and now they have this to cope with? But several years later I’m fairly sure that the majority of these failures lay at their door.
Over the past six years or so I’ve given some of my time to several pro bono roles; one as a Local Advisory Board member with Career Ready, another as guest speaker at local schools and also as an entrepreneurship mentor; and I witness first-hand, how today’s 16-18 year old students often struggle to cope with entering a business for the first time. How anxious and shy, how fearful they are, or that we’re going to expect too much too soon. So it’s wonderful to bring such support through my paid for work. In facilitating this kind of stuff for my clients they also see how incredibly rewarding it is to employ a young 16-18 year old student either through an internship or full employment…but only if you begin to consider the needs of both parties and set a process in place that defines the position.
For those of us of a certain age, we remember how school was 30+ years ago. I went to an ‘all boys’ school, the teachers were often intimidating (most of mine wore gowns like some sort of superhero) we just didn’t see them that way. We often saw how they would intimidate or even scare students, needless to say we felt ready for the world far earlier because we so often wanted to escape to better things. Without knowing it, we were perhaps more ready for work as a result.
Today things are different, it’s more relaxed at school, perhaps because the relationship students have with teachers is also more balanced. Unfortunately, I wonder if this ‘balancing’ causes part of the problem? Students may come home and complain about their teachers but they are still comfortable with them because there is no fear.
Many children now don’t even experience a paper round and those who work generally get their first part-time job in a retail store environment. So going into a commercial business on a 3 – 6 week summer internship is going to be a daunting experience. But if you develop a process that’s as considered as it would be if you were pitching for some new work, the process can be so incredibly rewarding.
Yesterday, I was with one such employer, Venture Caravans & Motorhomes in Daventry, a family run business who operates across two regional sites have just concluded their first internship season with great results. They’ve learnt how having a structured process which takes new starters through a thorough training programme sets a tone right from the off. They appointed an internal manager/mentor who spoke daily to the students about their fears and satisfaction and they had another very committed employee design the whole three week programme so that it greatly contributed to the enjoyment of the role (and how Venture would be seen by them when it concluded). By setting their stall out so professionally it meant the students were equally committed to their employer. By the end of it the student’s confidence had grown immeasurably and they were referring to their employer, not as ‘them’ or ‘you’ but ‘WE’. By investing in time at the beginning, the benefits at the end we’re clear for all to see. Do this throughout your business and consider what it might do for your customer relationships?
If you want to discuss how we can help you introduce this to your business, please do get in touch by calling 01788-815327.