Posted at 12:00 PM
By Preston Huang, MBDA Intern
When I was offered a summer internship at the Minority Business Development Agency in April, it was a no-brainer. I accepted immediately.
Aside from the intrinsic rewards of becoming a public servant and carrying out the MBDA mission, there was another clear motivating factor involved in my decision: professional development. There was enormous pressure from the career staff at my college and from my peers to find a meaningful summer internship that would help me in my career aspirations later on.
Every year, countless students from colleges around the U.S. move to some of the most expensive housing markets in the world for the summer in the name of “professional development”. But what exactly does this mean? Do summer internships actually provide meaningful work experience for students?
The fact of the matter is that internships are perhaps one of the most important factors for determining career success post-college for millennial students.
This thought hadn’t occurred to me until I was afforded the opportunity to attend the U.S. Black Chambers’ School of Chamber and Business Management conference, an annual event aimed at growing Black-owned businesses through workshops, panels, and networking sessions. As a current intern at the MBDA, I went into the conference hoping to learn more about the challenges that minority business owners face in their everyday lives. What I left with, however, was a deeper understanding of the challenges that today’s students go through in the modern business landscape.
My epiphany came during a panel on historically black colleges and universities and entrepreneurship with its focus on the need for paid internships. The panel featured five presidents from prominent HBCUs who stressed that internships are essential not only to students, but also to businesses and the future of the economy as a whole.
Looking at the data, one could quickly see that this is true. According to an annual survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, students who completed at least one paid internship during their college career, 65.4 percent received an offer for a job prior to graduation. This is compared to 38.6 percent of students who did not complete any internships and an astonishing 95 percent of employers who stated that candidate experience is a major factor in hiring decisions. The study also showed that entry-level hires with internship experience earned about 6.5 times more than those without.
Internships offer incredible value to employers as well. Employers who seek interns receive a steady stream of human capital to create regular productivity boosts every year. They can also hire candidates directly out of internship programs, which eliminates a great deal of cost in screening for countless candidates for full-time hires.
But most importantly, increasing access to paid internships promotes economic prosperity across the country. Through paid internships, students can put themselves in a position to obtain not only full time job offers right out of college, but also valuable, high paying jobs. The expansion of access to internship programs will allow recent graduates everywhere to experience more robust wage growth, thereby strengthening the U.S. economic output as a whole.
Does your company have an internship program? If not, consider contacting career centers at local colleges and universities to launch campus recruitment programs. Internship opportunities can also be posted to job listing websites such as internships.com, Indeed, or WayUp. Opening the door for paid interns opens the door to a brighter future for America.
Preston Huang is an intern for the U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency. He is currently enrolled at Duke University pursuing a major in financial economics with a certificate in PPE (politics, philosophy, and economics). Growing up in South Florida, Preston developed a passion for finance and investment and in the future hopes to apply financial valuation techniques in the entertainment industry. This summer he is working in the Office of Legislative, Education, and Intergovernmental Affairs with a focus on public affairs.