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Messiah seminar schools employers on internships, branding, generational divide

Michael True said his job at Messiah College’s Career & Professional Development Center sits at “the nexus where students and employers meet.”

His job includes coordinating workplace internships for students at the Mechanicsburg college, so he hears all the time about how those stints work – or don’t work, as the case may be.

In order to share what he and others have learned from working with young people, True coordinated a first-of-its-kind seminar this past week at Messiah for officials from nearly 60 businesses, nonprofits and government agencies, called “The Inside Scoop: Recruitment, Internships and Millennials.” Admission was $39.

“We wanted this to be a real help to the employers to do their job better in recruiting students,” said True, senior associate for talent development and marketing.

The event, held last Thursday, featured sessions on how to start a “quality internship” program, how to positively handle different generations in a workplace, and how to establish a company’s “brand” in the minds of students who could be future employees.

“Finding unique methods of setting your organization apart from others is so important,” he said.

True offered three suggestions:

1. When it comes to internships, don’t set up a program that just has students making copies or getting coffee for higher-ups. Make sure someone is “working with the students to make the most of the experience. We tried (at the seminar) to get across the types of things students should be doing, and not doing.

“We do tell students that all interns do some ‘grunt work,’ as you might call it, but that should not be the majority of what they do. The majority of their work for an employer should be related to their major or career goal.”

2. Create a clear position description for the internship, providing adequate resources for the student to perform the tasks you give them. “Provide them with a good, thorough orientation, and you should include students in meetings and workshops, networking events, those types of things, and then provide regular feedback to the student.”

3. With millennials and the intergenerational workplace, veteran leaders at companies would do well to think of “how to go from being a boss to being a coach” for younger employees, he said. And know that, as millennial-age attendees at Thursday’s seminar pointed out during breakout sessions, they “do technology faster than these other generations do. There needs to be an understanding that each generation brings its own strengths and weaknesses to the workplace. As organizations become more transparent in their internal communication, they need to appreciate and foster the strengths of their employees.”

True said the seminar wasn’t designed to promote his college to employers, instead it “was set up with the idea, ‘We want to give you this information as an employer that would be applicable no matter what school you’re working with.’ And I think they realized that.”

Messiah’s Career & Professional Development Center is planning future workshops to help employers “meet their needs for a strong, trained, well-adapted workforce,” True added.

David O'Connor
Dave O'Connor covers York County, manufacturing, higher education, nonprofits, and workforce development. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at [email protected].

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