Quentin Burdick Center for Cooperatives

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Internships

By offering an internship to students, cooperatives can bring new talent into the company and work with the students without the obligation of employment. This is just one way of finding experienced people to hire with the knowledge of cooperatives. The students can meet short-term needs for extra assistance, and bring enthusiasm and current industry knowledge.

Why should a Cooperative consider an internship program?

A common complaint heard from cooperative management today is finding experienced people to hire with the knowledge of cooperatives. They often hire people who have corporate business knowledge, but not cooperative business knowledge and end up using time and money to train them. Currently, five colleges/universities in North Dakota offer a cooperatives course--North Dakota State University, Dickinson State University, Lake Region State College, Minot State University, and the University of North Dakota. Students are being drawn from the business, agribusiness, and other departments. Students are learning about cooperatives, the steps to start a cooperative, and the financial differences of cooperatives versus corporation. More information about the cooperatives course can be found on the Center's Education page.

By offering an internship to these students and others, the cooperative can bring new talent into the company and work with the students without the obligation of employment. The students can meet short-term needs for extra assistance, and bring enthusiasm and current industry knowledge. As an example, one area Cooperative offered an internship to a student to re-design their website with the things the members wanted to have Internet access to. The end result was exactly what the Cooperative had hoped for.

Why should a Cooperative be interested in offering an internship? Perhaps the following statistics will shine some interesting light on reasons why. When surveyed, the employers in the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Job Outlook 2003 survey said they considered their own internship programs as the most cost-effective method for recruiting new college graduates for full-time, permanent positions. These businesses reported that 32 percent of new college hires come from their internship programs. NACEs Job Outlook Fall Preview survey revealed that employers are expected to hire 3.6 percent fewer 2003 college graduates. The only region projecting a positive outlook for college hiring was the Midwest. The employees in this region expect to hire 11.2 percent more new college grads this year (2002-2003) than last year. The worst outlook was in the West with a drop of 15.7 percent.

Advantages of an Internship Program

There are many advantages for a business to have an internship program. The internship program enables the employer and student to "try each other on for size." From the Cooperative's view, a manager of a local elevator said about hiring so few people is that hiring the "right" one is extremely important. An internship allows the employer to see how the person works out without any obligation for employment. From the student's point of view, being able to work for a company, live in the area, and know the other employees enables them to know whether they would like to work for that company after graduation.

The survey showed that, overall, 80% of the companies responding to the survey had an internship program:

*manufacturing - 84.3%
*service-sector - 80.1%
*government/non-profit - 56%

More than 55% of those hired by manufacturers had internship experience.

Designing a Successful Internship Program

Some suggestions when designing a successful internship program include:

  • Choose a project that will be manageable, rewarding, and challenging for the intern
  • When interviewing the applicant, find out what areas they are interested in
  • Pay interns competitive wages
  • Expose interns to different departments
  • Set aside time for interns to meet with senior management
  • Seek feedback from the interns during and upon completing the program

Having an internship program at your Cooperative is a win-win situation for all concerned. For more information on how to design and offer an internship program, refer to the NDSU Cooperative Internships information sheet or contact Director of the Quentin Burdick Center for Cooperatives.

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