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Turning interns into hires

Former intern and current consultant Ally Riggio, left,

Former intern and current consultant Ally Riggio, left, with Loren Wildes, president of Bar Harbor Web Design, seen on June 3. Photo Credit: Andrew Theodorakis/Yellow House Images

There are no dress rehearsals in the corporate world, but an internship comes pretty darn close.

Companies get an opportunity during the internship to see if  the intern is well-suited for the organization, and the intern gets to do the same.

And with the tight labor market, it pays for companies to look at every intern as a possible hire down the line, experts say.

“Employers are really trying to improve their programs and use these interns as a potential pipeline for future hires,” says Angelena Salvadge, a research associate at  the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), a nonprofit professional group based in Pennsylvania.

The proof is in the numbers.

Out of the nearly 15,000 total eligible interns considered for full-time, entry-level hiring reported at companies from the graduating class of 2018, 56.1 percent ultimately were hired by the employer, a more than 10 percent increase from the previous year, according to NACE. 

There’s lots of potential for interns to turn into solid hires, provided the company allocates the time and resources to develop them, she says.

A good internship program creates “more and better tasks for the students to take on,” says Salvadge, often in rotations across different departments, so they get a feel for all of an organization's  tasks.

It also pays to have a dedicated team or manager for the intern and someone who could serve as a mentor.

Ally Riggio, 26, found a mentor in Loren Wildes, president of Bar Harbor Web Design in Plainview, when she interned for six months starting in December 2017.

Riggio said the internship helped her tremendously to understand the field, and Wildes was helpful  with advice and guidance.

Riggio worked on real projects, starting small at first and building from there.

The internship worked out so well that when it concluded, Wildes hired Riggio as a consultant for the business in the summer of 2018.

“It was an excellent decision for my business,” says Wildes, noting Riggio is “very bright” and “reliable.”

Before that,  Riggio  had taken part in an “externship program” offered by Hunter Business School, a technical school with locations in Levittown and Medford,  which gave her a chance to intern for a few firms at the Digital Ballpark in Plainview. When the externship ended, she stayed on as an intern for Wildes.

“Over 60 percent of our interns are offered full-time positions by their externship companies,” says George McRedmond,  who leads the Web Application Design and Development program at Hunter.

The program involves about 720 hours in the classroom and 180 hours at an “externship” site, he says, noting the school sets expectations with companies for its students, including having a dedicated person within the company to work with the interns.

Companies even come to the school while the students are learning and talk about their business and the skills they're looking for, Hunter president Jay Fund says.

Of course, not every internship leads to employment, but it’s a good opportunity to test the waters.

“An internship is almost nothing more than a 10- to 12-week interview,” says Jonathan Ivanoff, associate director of internships at Adelphi University in Garden City.

For companies, working with an educational institution can be helpful, he says, because those institutions will  do a certain amount of vetting of the students for the firms. Adelphi  also offers a 15-week preparation seminar where students learn all aspects of interning, including being interviewed and making presentations.

If companies can’t hire the intern for a permanent job right away, Ivanoff says, they should try to keep in touch, perhaps by offering part-time work.

Darren Stakey, 37,  a law associate at Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman LLP in East Meadow, remained in touch with the firm between the time he interned there in 2013 and when he was hired in 2016. “I kept in contact with my mentors,” he said, including his primary one, Howard Stein, managing partner in the  real estate group.

Stakey had been working as a judicial clerk in Pennsylvania after graduating from Touro Law Center in Central Islip,  and upon moving back to New York was hired at Certilman after reaching out to Stein.

Stein serves as chairman of the board of governors at Touro and says there is a program where board members agree to take at least one intern a summer. That’s how Stakey first got his internship.

Alessandra Albano, 21, who just finished her first year at Touro, is interning at the law firm this summer.

“I’m learning so much already,” she says.

Stein says these are paid internships, which helps with recruitment.

In general, paid internships are more enticing, says Salvadge of NACE, adding that “because the market’s so competitive for interns, the employers want to be able to compete with other companies in their industry.”

Top skills/qualities employers seek in interns

  • The ability to work in a team structure
  • The ability to obtain and process information
  • Strength in planning and prioritizing work
  • Good verbal communication
  • Good decision-making and problem-solving skills

Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers

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