Four Strategies for Identifying and Retaining Internship Partners

This week, Brandon Martin of Phipps Neighborhoods joined Aniqa Garrison, Joseph Pena, and Amelia Thompson of NYC Mission Society to share strategies for identifying and retaining internship partners. Brandon and Amelia met through Student Success Network’s Career Collab, a working group supporting organizations in achieving and surpassing their most pressing youth goals. Sharing and scaling solutions is a key piece of the Network’s approach. Here are some tips for developing lasting partnerships with employers drawn from the two organizations’ exchange.

1. Use a pitch that is employer-centered: focused on the needs and wants of the employer.

Brandon connects with potential internship hosts in many ways: cold calls, conversations at job fairs and networking events, and messages on job sites like  LinkedIn. In these communications, he always makes an effort to speak the employer’s language. For instance, in speaking to a veterinarian, he would say, “I have this young person very much interested in becoming a veterinarian and she’d be a great fit for your company. She’ll come in and quickly learn your needs. On top of that, we pay the intern so it comes at no cost to you. We also have a case manager who checks in with the intern and ensures she has what she needs to succeed at your company.” Focusing on the needs of the employer makes him or her more likely to agree to host an intern.

2. Build relationships by engaging in open and honest communication.

Aniqa and Joseph engage in proactive communication with internship hosts through site visits, surveys, and timely updates about programmatic changes. Brandon stresses that addressing issues early and often is critical to maintaining good relationships. Brandon is always honest with both young people and hosts about performance-related issues and focuses on repairing the relationships.

3. Celebrate internship hosts and create opportunities for them to network with each other.

Employers enjoy feeling included and appreciated. Brandon, Aniqa, and Joseph all invite internship hosts to end-of-year celebrations and use these events to create connections between the program and hosts, and among internship hosts who usually don’t get to meet each other. These opportunities to celebrate and build community increase the likelihood that employers will continue to offer internships to their programs’ students.

4. Support young people in identifying their skills and interests early, ideally before internship placement.

Young people benefit most from internships that fit their skills and interests. However, due to lack of experience, they might not be aware of their skills and interests yet. Brandon suggests providing students employment or skills assessments early in their participation in an internship program, ideally before matching them with an employer. He recommends the O*NET Interest Profiler, available for free online.

What tips do you have for identifying and retaining internship hosts? Comment below and we’ll update this post with additional contributions.

Find complete notes from the internship strategies exchange on our Network Resource Library.

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Alexandra Lotero

Alexandra is passionate about the power of putting actionable data in the hands of practitioners and youth. Her mission is to support practitioners, researchers, and youth in creating data-informed, relationship-driven cultures that continuously improve student experiences that put all youth on a path to success. She is the proud daughter of Latin American immigrants, a City Year New York AmeriCorps alum, and the former Operations and Program Director for the 115-member NYC Civic Corps and 10-member NYC VISTA AmeriCorps programs at the NYC Mayor’s Office.

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