A work-based win-win

Meaningful internships can be beneficial for Generation Z and your business

Creating a meaningful internship is not easy for organizations. A quality internship must be beneficial for the company and the intern, must include true work-based learning experiences and must be integrated into the company’s business.

As a mission-based organization, our employees’ passion for what they do is evident in their work and has helped us achieve our goal of creating a mutually beneficial internship program, and we’ve learned some important lessons along the way.

Nine college students from schools across the country became team members at CCA Global this summer through our full-time internship program. These students worked hard, collaborated, had fun and created memories.

Our internships are designed for those individuals in Generation Z who are broadly described as values-based, entrepreneurial, tech-savvy multitaskers. This aligns well with the work we do to support and empower entrepreneurs and independent business owners, serving thousands of businesses through the co-op models that help them grow in an ever-evolving marketplace.

A meaningful internship must be well-thought-out and well-managed. It should be based on the principles behind work-based learning that include hands-on experience that demonstrates and celebrates accomplishment. If the internship workload is a collection of low priority projects and administrative tasks that no one at the company could get to, it’s unlikely that the result will be useful to the company or create a meaningful experience for the intern.

We place a very high value on our team and our culture. We also believe in supporting our community and the next-generation workforce. For these reasons and more, our summer internship program allows interns to engage directly with our team, includes assigned mentors and features work in groups on significant, business-related projects that are presented to CCA Global leadership at the end of the internship.

Here are five lessons learned for others looking to develop an impactful internship program:

1. Don’t underestimate the value of an internship: For the intern, this often is their first experience in the workplace, and it can make a significant impression. This testimonial demonstrates the impact it can have: “Thank you for giving me the guidance and confidence to help me succeed this summer. I have been challenged greatly but have been able to expand my skills and techniques through various projects. Going into this next school year, I feel well-equipped to take on any challenge I am assigned to.”

2. Make it meaningful: According to the U.S. Department of Education, work-based learning is a combination of three key components: alignment of classroom and workplace learning; applying academic, technical and employability skills in the workplace; and receiving support from classroom or workplace mentors. Our internships are highly structured and have all three of these elements.

3. Make it relevant: Our interns work in a variety of departments as team members. They also connect in smaller groups as part of a capstone project and devote significant time on developing ideas for future business endeavors for CCA, or ways we might improve processes.

4. Treat your interns as employees: Our interns participate in meetings, and one of my personal highlights is the intern lunch with the CEO. I believe I learn more from them than they learn from me! Have interns participate in some of the fun activities that may be part of your company’s culture.

5. Be welcoming and supportive: We have a seven-person intern committee that helps select interns, match them with mentors and manage the internships to help ensure it is a quality, relevant experience.

One of this summer’s interns said her internship “has been invaluable and extraordinary and one I will never forget.” That’s what we strive for because it articulates how meaningful and impactful a quality internship experience can be.

Hearing these and other similar comments makes me confident that Generation Z will have a great impact on our society. Exposing these students to a corporate setting in a meaningful way by emphasizing real-world learning is critical and benefits everyone involved. I encourage more companies to invest in internships and design them to resonate with this next generation of our workforce.

Howard Brodsky is co-founder, chairman and co-chief executive officer of CCA Global Partners.

Categories: Workplace Advice